People don’t like thinking about death or becoming incapacitated. But especially if you have assets or children, it’s important to decide what you want to happen after you’re gone.
However, you get to choose whether to use an online will maker or to hire an attorney that specializes in estate planning. You want to balance cost and time with effectiveness. So which choice makes sense for you?
That’s what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.
When Is It OK To Use an Online Will Maker?
Do I need to hire an attorney to create a living will and to set up power of attorney? Or am I OK to use an online will maker?
That’s what a Clark listener asked on the May 18 podcast episode.
Asked Judi in Georgia: “In preparing my will, power of attorney, etc. (advanced directives), is it OK to use an online service such as LegalZoom as opposed to an attorney? I am speaking about simple documents.”
Some people can get away with using one of the best online will makers, Clark says.
“Lawyers that specialize in wills, estates and trusts cringe every time I even attempt to answer this question,” Clark says. “Because the answer to them is [everyone needs] to hire a lawyer.
“If you don’t have a good story the neighbors can gossip about because you’ve got a very simple life, you work for a company, there’s not a whole bunch of extraneous things going on, doing your own will is OK.”
Clark also pointed out that his favorite online will maker is WillMaker, calling it a great product to create your own will.
List of Reasons To Avoid Using an Online Will Maker
What would constitute a complex situation? What reasons would create a need for you to hire an attorney in Clark’s estimation?
- A blended family.
- You own your own business.
- You’ve got a lot of money.
- Your children don’t get along.
“A blended family would be way up high on the list,” Clark says. “Because there’s complexities involved with drafting a will when it’s a blended family that make [creating your own will] not a good choice.
“Or if you have kids and there’s assets that they would hope to receive [but they] don’t get along. That would be a great circumstance where you would not want to do a will on your own.”
Why You Don’t Want To Die Without a Will if You Have Kids
Have children but don’t have considerable assets? You may think it’s not necessary to create a will.
That could create major issues for your children, Clark says. So you need a will even if you don’t have any assets to pass down.
“It’s important that you have a will to state who you want to raise your children in the event of your untimely demise,” Clark says. “You die without a will? Imagine your state deciding who raises your kids.
“Many states now have statutory medical directives. What used to be called living wills. Now they’re generally referred to as medical directives. And so there will be a state requirement for those and if you don’t do one of those, you’ve got issues at the time you become incapacitated.”
Do You Need a Lawyer for Medical Power of Attorney?
Similar rules apply to whether you need an attorney to create “power of attorney” for healthcare and other similar things.
“For the medical power of attorney or medical directives, it may be state statute required. Meaning there’s a state form that is easily available at a state website or just by searching ‘medical directive state of Georgia,'” Clark says.
“Georgia is a state-required directive. It’s a state-specific form. And for people who live in more than one state, a lot of people may live part-time in one state, they should probably have a directive in the other state as well.”
Clark likes WillMaker to create an online will on your own. If you have a simple family and business situation, and you’re not wealthy, he thinks creating a will through one of the best online options can be a suitable choice.
However, if you fit any of the criteria listed in this article, you should consider hiring an attorney.
Make sure you create a will if you’re a parent even if you don’t have any assets, Clark says. And check with your state rules on whether you need to fill out a legal form in order to grant power of attorney if you’re medically incapacitated.