I’ve spoken to a lawyer, but I see several online will services that are very cheap, including a will and health care power of attorney. Is an online will service sufficient for most people? I’m in the process of figuring out the best way to get a will written as clearly and hopefully as affordably as possible.
Can I state in my will that my life insurance and other money be used to pay off my mortgage, so that I can then leave my home to a family member or friend? Is that a good idea?
““I plan to leave everything to my husband, but I would like my will to state that if he dies before me, our estate will be divided between our families.””
I work as a consultant at my own LLC, taxed as an S corporation, but I have no employees. I live in sunny Florida. Outside of my business bank account, I believe my finances are fairly simple and typical: a few retirement accounts, a primary residence, an investment property, term life insurance. My husband and I have mortgages on two properties, but our first house should be paid off in about seven years.
I plan to leave everything to my husband, but I would like my will to state that if he dies before me, our estate will be divided between our families. My in-laws are coming to live with us and I would like them to inherit our house. We have no children, but are very close to our nieces and nephews.
I appreciate any guidance you have on writing a will.
I hope this won’t be necessary for a long time
If you have a home and a business and enough assets to pay off your mortgage, pay for a lawyer. You can cut back on eating out or take one fewer vacation this year if you want to save money, but don’t skimp on making sure your will is rock solid.
You should be able to find a lawyer who can prepare a will for $300 to $500, and a durable power of attorney/living will for the same amount. The latter concerns matters such as end-of-life care and what happens if you become incapacitated for work.
You can instruct the executor of your will to use the assets from your estate to pay off your mortgage. This way you can leave the house free and empty to a third party. Everyone should have a will, even people who are in their twenties and thirties or have no children.
In fact, if you leave your entire estate to your spouse (that is, whatever you own that is treated as separate rather than community property), he too will have to make a will, and his will may or may not be in correspond to your wishes.
“If you leave your own assets to your husband, he will also have to make a will, and that will may or may not be in accordance with your wishes.”
A person making a will or signing a power of attorney must be of sound mind – also known as ‘testamentary capacity’ – and must not be under duress, restraint, fraud or undue influence. But laws vary by state.
For example, in Pennsylvania, each spouse can write a separate will, but you can’t make a will that cuts your spouse out of all probate, according to Karen Ann Ulmer Attorneys at Law, which has offices in that state.
There are many cautionary tales about people who have died without a will – like Prince and Michael Jackson – or have decided to make an online will. A lawyer told me that a wealthy client had written a will through an online service, but forgot to sign it.
If you die without a will or without a legal will – a will that is not notarized or that has some other legal anomaly that makes it invalid – it is left up to the laws in your state to decide who gets what, what can become complicated if your husband dies before you.
And if you write a will, you should review it every three to five years. But it will be many years before your executor has to do the work.
Readers write to me with all kinds of dilemmas.
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