Where to get Professional Advice for Drafting a will

The general answer to where to get professional advice for drafting a will is, “a lawyer.” But there are several situations in which you might find yourself. The way to find the best advice for your particular situation will depend on your exact needs.

Many people will tell you to absolutely never use a book or software program yourself to prepare a will. Many people will tell you that you’re a fool if you pay more for a live lawyer. Neither is right. There are definitely some people who can get by with using a will-in-a-box software. Who are those people? If you have a simple list of belongings and some simple requests for what you want done after death, you probably will not be led astray by a generic will. For example, giving a few prized objects to people who will appreciate them, dividing other belongings up among a group of people, and some simple requests for a funeral can probably be taken care of from software or a book. But be sure to read the instructions about who must sign the will and how it must be done very carefully. A simple error can result in a will being invalid.

The best answer for most people is to have a lawyer draft you a will based on your personal needs. This will cost more, but you can likely find a good lawyer who will do this for a flat fee that you negotiate up front. This type of will probably involves filling out a questionnaire about what you own, who you need to provide for, and how you would like your estate to be taken care of after your death. If you have children that you must account for, or a spouse or ex-spouse, you really should splurge on a lawyer. You’re talking about a couple of hundred dollars, and making sure that the right people are caring for your loved ones after death is probably worth it. How do you find a lawyer you can trust? The answers that everybody can probably guess are: talk to friends, family, and people you trust at your church. But the best answer that I ever heard to this question, and the one that I tell people now, is to talk to your banker. A bank branch manager probably deals with dozens of lawyers every week: some who are customers, some who are there to work with the bank to set up accounts for wealthier clients. Because your banker has some idea of your wealth and income, and knows a number of lawyers, he or she can point you toward a lawyer who will provide the services you need, without overpaying.

There are few people at the higher end of the wealth scale who need to pay the extra money for a specialist who only works on what lawyers call “trust and estate” law. Most of us are not in that category. But if you have significant wealth (or if you plan to have significant wealth) and you want a professional who can create complex financial accounts to accomplish what you want before and after death, this is probably the path to take. This lawyer will likely charge you by the hour, because the complexity of each case will require different amounts of work. To find this lawyer, you want somebody who is well known and well respected in the financial community where you live. If you have this kind of wealth, your banker or investment advisers probably have a handful of lawyers whom they have worked with in the past, and can refer you to somebody who will coordinate the legal effort with their financial planning efforts at the same time. Do not trust this kind of legal question to somebody whose ad in the yellow pages looks the best. This type of lawyer earns the premium costs that go along with hiring them.