Here's How Much It Costs to Prepare a Simple Will
As of 2022, around 67% of Americans don't have a will and risk dying intestate (without a will). If you want particular people to inherit your assets after you die, making a simple will could be a cost-effective way to ensure your wishes are followed.
The reason you may be avoiding this task may have to do with the perception that creating a will costs a lot of money — or that wills are only needed by those who have a lot of money. Not true! You can create a simple will easily and affordably. Here’s how.
A simple will outlines who you want to leave your assets to after your death. These assets could include real estate, personal belongings and any other funds or items you wish to pass on to a specific person. Simple wills include the following components:
- Your name and signature
- Verification that you are of sound mind and aware that you are making a will
- Names of your beneficiaries and which assets you want them to receive
- Name of your executor (the person responsible for following the instructions laid out in the will after you pass away)
- Witness signatures
A simple will could be a good option if your financial situation is relatively uncomplicated. For example, it could be suitable if you only have a couple of assets and wish to pass your entire estate to a single beneficiary. However, you may need to make a more complex will if you have multiple assets and want to split them between several heirs. A complex will may also be more suitable if you and your spouse wish to leave assets to children from previous marriages or need to leave money in a trust.
According to Nolo, the average cost of a simple will is around $1,000 (CAD 1,360). However, you can sometimes have a very basic will created for $300 (CAD 410), but the cost depends on the going rate for attorneys in your area. Hiring a lawyer to write a will typically costs less in rural areas or small towns with a low cost of living, and lawyers in expensive cities generally cost more. Most firms charge flat fees for their will writing services, so you'll usually know your expenses upfront.
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You can create a simple will yourself, but it's essential to understand the rules in your state to ensure any document you prepare is watertight. Most states have strict regulations on the correct wording for wills, and failing to write your will correctly could cause issues if someone contests it after your death. Generally, it's best to hire a lawyer to write even a simple will unless you trust your executor implicitly and are confident that no one will contest the terms when you pass away.
If you choose to write your will yourself, ensure you sign and date it and have two (or three in some states) witnesses sign it. Your witnesses cannot be beneficiaries.
California, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico and Wisconsin permit statutory wills. A statutory will is a straightforward will form provided by the state that allows you to fill in your wishes in a premade format, so making your own will could be a more realistic option if you live in one of these states.
Another option is to purchase a DIY will kit. These kits start from around $10 (CAD 13) and allow you to create a simple will using a premade document. However, it's essential to check that you understand the document's contents and that the wording is correct in your state. It's a relatively new industry, so it's worth reading reviews of any company you're considering to ensure their products are legally sound. You may need to have your will notarized, depending on the rules in your state.
Finally, you could consider making a holographic will if they're legal in your state. Holographic wills are wills made in your own handwriting, and you may not need to have it witnessed. You should check the regulations governing holographic wills in your state and ensure you sign and date the document before relying on this type of will.
All CAD conversions are based on the exchange rate on the date of publication.
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