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How much does a will cost?

How much does a will cost? This is usually the first question someone ask me after finding out I write wills. The answer is, it depends on what you mean by a simple will. What I consider a simple will should only cost around $150 to $200 dollars. For a married couple that both want nearly identical wills, then add only an extra $50 to $100.

What is a simple will though? To me, there isn’t a fine line. I can only decide if your will is simple after speaking with you. Do you have a child you don’t trust with money? Perhaps you need a spend thrift trust to make sure they don’t blow through their inheritance. Do you have a beloved pet you want to ensure is taken well care of? Maybe you will need a pet trust. Is there someone you want to take care of that isn’t capable of taking care of themselves? Then perhaps consider a special needs trust. These are usually only things that I can suss out after speaking with you in a private settings and not while chit chatting in line at the gas station or while watching a game.

Another problem though is that a will isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. The will only takes care of what happens after you have died. We should all be so lucky that we pass in our sleep at an old age.

You also need to consider an advanced medical directive and a durable power of attorney. The advance directive helps guide your doctor in treating you should you no longer be capable of expressing your wishes. Would you want to be on life support for an extended period of time? Are blood transfusions against your personal religious beliefs? The durable power of attorney allows a trusted person to handle your finances should you no longer be capable, such as accessing your bank account in order to pay your property taxes or Fidos vet bill.

Who can make a will?

In the great state of North Carolina there are only 2 requirements to make a valid will, which can be found in N.C.G.S. § 31-1. First, you have to be 18 and, second, you have to be of sound mind. That’s it. Verifying someones age is usually the easy part. Where trouble most often arises is in the context of sound mind.

To be of sound mind the testator (testator is a fancy word for the person whose will it is) must know 3 things. First, they must know the natural objects of their bounty (usually, this is just their kin). Second, they have to understand the nature and extent of their property. Lastly, and the trickiest, they have to know the “manner” in which they desire to dispose of their property and the effect that “manner” of disposition will have on their property.

Issues involving sound mind sometimes arise when a will is made shortly before the impending death of the testator (remember that fancy word). Some of the most common reasons it pops up at this point is due to the effects of pain medication, the impact of a mental impairment, such as late stage dementia or Alzheimer’s, or any other situation you can imagine that could cause a mental weakness. The point is, sometimes it is too late to share your final wishes even if you are still alive.


Why do I need a will?

Why do I need a will?

No one wakes up one day and says, “I’d love to make a will.” Instead, they say to themselves, “I wonder what will happen to my loved ones when I die?” If you are reading this, then you’ve probably had that thought. You are also ahead of the game, because you’ve also taken the first step by beginning to educate yourself on what happens to your loved ones after you die.

So what happens to my “stuff” without a will?

In North Carolina, if you die without a will your assets will be distributed according to default rules from the Intestate Succession Act. Intestate succession is intended to be a fair disposition, but, like anything left to the government’s control, things can turn out wacky. For instance, if you are married with no descendants and die without a will, then your spouse only gets 1/2 of your real property, the first $50,000 of personal property and 1/2 of the balance of your personal property. The rest of your property would pass to your parents!

Who will take care of my young children if I die without a will?

One of the most important reasons to have a will if you have young children is the ability to designate who will be their guardian if something should happen to you. State law requires that the courts consider the parent’s designation of guardianship in their will as a “strong guide” when appointing a guardian. Without a will, the decision is left to the discretion of the Clerk of Court. I’m sure nearly everyone can think of a certain family member they would prefer to not become the guardian. Now is your chance to speak up.

Why should I use a lawyer instead of one of those cheap websites?

There are plenty of websites that will allow you to make your will for a cheaper upfront price than hiring an attorney, but unless you are comfortable with legal terms, such as abatement, codicil, and fee simple subject to condition subsequent, then I would never advise you to create your own will.

While you probably expected an attorney to tell you that you need an attorney, it isn’t for the reason you think. Do an online search for a legal website reviewing any of the online will making websites and read through the comments. You’ll find countless comments from estate lawyers discussing how much more they’ve made fixing mistakes from these websites, than if the client had just come to them in the first place for a will. Plus, I don’t have any fine print that enrolls you in a $14.99 a month subscription plan.

So what do I do?

Contact a lawyer. Many lawyers, myself included, will provide a free consultation to discuss these matters with you. The price for a simple will drafted by an attorney is usually in the range of $150 to $300. For this price, your lawyer should speak with you to discuss your options, draft the document according to your wishes, explain the terms of its provisions, and make sure it is properly executed.