For many people, using a will kit is a viable alternative to having a lawyer draw up a will. However, before deciding to use one of the many available kits for your own needs, take the time to make certain that the one you choose is up to date and legal in your state.
Also known as Last Will and Testament kits, will kits contain all of the legal forms and documents that you need to prepare your own will without the assistance of an attorney. The exact documents and forms that a kit contains varies.
Many of the kits include a number of different forms to cover the needs of individuals in various circumstances and situations such as whether the individual:
- Is married
- Is single
- Is widowed
- Has children
- Does not have children
Depending on the specific company, will kits are available as:
- Downloadable forms, such as WillMaker
- Web-based forms
- Forms on a CD
- Forms in a hard copy book or packet
Not for Everyone
Kits for creating your own will are not for everyone. Your base of assets really determines whether you should use a lawyer or a kit to draw up your will. Generally, if you fit into one or more of the following categories, your will should be drawn up by a lawyer:
- A high financial threshold
- Multiple properties
- Minor dependents
- A need to establish trusts
- The owner of a business
Lawyer fees for will preparation will range $150-$1,000, depending on the number of hours in the project.
If you do not fall into one of the above categories, using a Last Will and Testament kit to draw up your will is generally acceptable. Always make certain that the kit you choose is:
- Valid in your state
- The correct one for your situation and/or circumstance
- Is correctly filled out and validated according to the laws of your area
The price range of a Last Will and Testament kit ranges from approximately $10.00 to $75.00.
Pros and Cons
Pros of Choosing a Will Kit
- Considerably less expensive than a lawyer's preparation
- Uses the same general will configuration and many of the same forms
- Requires witnesses, notarization or both
- Ability to update frequently without extensive cost
Cons of Choosing a Will Kit
- In certain instances kits are too simple to offer effective legal coverage
- Some states don't recognize certain directives outlined in will kits
- Most kits don't cover living wills (for health care) and/or power of attorney (for financial matters), which require additional forms
- Some wills generated by a kit still require a lawyer's review, so additional cost is involved
Where to Find Kits
Last Will and Testament kits are available from many different online and traditional retailers.
Brick and Mortar Stores
Many large office supply stores such as Office Max, Staples and Office Depot have a selection of kits at their retail locations as well as offering them on their websites. The kits are also often found at big box stores, stationery stores and small office supply stores throughout the country.
- Parting Wishes is a comprehensive website dedicated to U.S. and Canadian residents. It claims that legal advisors in both countries have already reviewed its "MyWill," making it suitable for residents in the majority of states and provinces. The site offers secure storage option with membership, as well as other features.
- Legacy Writer, rated by PC Magazine as "simple to use," is an online web-based service. Once you fill out the interview information, your will is ready to print out or the company will mail it to you. You must then follow the instructions to sign your will in your state.
- Standard Legal is another software program, available by direct download, so there isn't a shipping fee. There's also an online creation option. The company's site offers tech support and a variety of other legal forms.
Sound Estate Planning
Before choosing a will kit, review the laws in your residing state. If you split your time between two states, the will should reflect the laws of your primary residence. Whether you rent an apartment and live a minimalist lifestyle or own a home full of personal treasures, securing the future in a will is important. Regardless of financial status, everyone should draw up a will as part of sound estate planning to protect you and your family.