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The Importance of Having a Last Will and Testament

A Last Will and Testament is the MOST important legal document you will ever sign in your lifetime, IF you take the time and effort to get it completed! Approximately 80% of all Americans do not have an updated Will. The average Last Will and Testament averages $500 to $6,000 from a non-LegalShield attorney. LegalShield offers all of its members a FREE and comprehensive Last Will and Testament, a Living Will, and a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney for owning the LegalShield membership. Here is a BIG reason why you should get your Last Will done; to protect the ones you love and care for like your family while you are ALIVE versus having them deal with expensive probate issues when you DIE.

The Financial Costs of Not Having A Last Will and Testament
Some people think that a Last Will and Testament is something that can be done later in life, or that their estate or family situation doesn’t warrant the time and effort to create one. Estate planners, probate authors, and scholars have written and lectured time and time again about the legal need to have a Last Will and Testament in place to transfer your assets when you die, but the financial need may be the one thing that finally encourages some to get their Will done. Keep this in mind: Bad things happen to good people and no one is promised to be here tomorrow!! (For example, accidents and injuries that result in death, illnesses, weather, natural disaster, etc.)

Here is why probating an estate is almost always MORE EXPENSIVE to manage WITHOUT a Last Will and Testament:

Let’s look at a very simple estate case. For example, say you are an individual with no children with an estate worth only $20,000. Maybe you own a car or have some other personal property to leave behind. When you die with a Last Will and Testament that states to whom your estate is to be distributed to is pretty “cut and dry” in probate court. Your estate may pay legal fees of approximately $750 to $1000 and the probate process would end quickly.

Take that same example if you do not have a Will in place. Now, your legal fees will go up because of an increase in paperwork and the need to interview potential witnesses, and your estate will now have to pay for a second attorney (known as an Attorney Ad Litem) to represent the heirs of the estate. The Probate Judge doesn’t know if you have kids living out of state, or even if they live close by, so an attorney is hired by the estate to make that determination. In a nutshell, the attorney fees will go up closer to $1,500 to $2,500 and the Attorney Ad Litem fees will be from $400-$1,000 depending on the estate.

For example, in the state of Texas, the application filed with the probate court will require a posting in the local newspaper, at the very least, announcing that the application was filed and that all heirs of the deceased must come forward immediately to make their claim to the estate, even if there are no known legal heirs at that time. Now add another $200 to $300 to the estate expenses to pay for the newspaper posting!

You can expect to spend between $2,000 to $4,000 to probate an estate with no Last Will and Testament, or pay $750 to $1,000 to probate an estate with a Will in-place. On the lower end, an intestate estate (one without a Will) costs $1,350 more to probate; on the high end it may cost $2,700 more to probate an estate without a Last Will and Testament. These numbers are just averages and could go lower or higher depending on your particular estate and the state laws where you live.

Complications will increase costs even more when there are minor heirs (which may be your own nieces and nephews or grandchildren) or you own properties in more than one state. A court ordered trust has to be created and a corporate trustee is paid an annual fee to manage the trust assets. Your estate may have to pay for two probate actions in the separate states where you own property. And don’t forget that someone will have to go to court annually as to serve as guardian of the minors to file an annual accounting (with additional attorney fees incurring every time) in those states.

Do your family, the people you care for, and yourself a HUGE favor. Complete your Last Will and Testament to protect your family even if the intent is to just give all of your estate to one or more persons. Having a Last Will and Testament in place when you die saves your estate and your family more money than what you will spend on getting it done, plus it give them additional “peace of mind”.

You will sleep better knowing that your family will be taken care of in the event of your untimely demise.

No one wants to talk about death, but it’s much easier to handle your probate issues while you are LIVING than when you’re DECEASED! And you never have worry about the HIGH HOURLY COSTS, plus the $500 to $6,000 fees traditional attorneys charge to complete a Last Will and Testament.

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About the Author

G. L. Giddings, GLG and Associates LLP
New Albany, IN 47150
(502) 209-8326

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