Need a Will? Two DIY Alternatives to an Attorney
Many years ago we had our wills prepared by an attorney, which cost a lot of money, even then. Since then, our address and circumstances have changed, and it was time to redo these important legal documents. Over the years additional legal documents have become standard and we didn’t have these in place, either. But we couldn’t afford hundreds of dollars to have an attorney draw these up. Our solution was to use either LegalZoom or USLegalForms.
We’ve used both and found that they’re both affordable and the forms are easy to complete. You just need to know how you want your will to be carried out. One of the biggest benefits for full timers is that you don’t have to be in your domicile state to create or update your legal documents.
Both LegalZoom and USLegalForms have a wide variety of forms for business, intellectual property, personal matters and most common legal needs. You can incorporate a business, draw up partnership papers, create contracts, file a copyright or trademark, and create just about any personal legal document you can imagine. Both services offer assistance in filling the forms at a higher price per form.
Documents are available that meet legal requirements by state with both services. So, no matter where you are, you just choose from the forms available for your domicile state. But there are some big differences between these two legal resources.
The last time we updated our wills (2011) we had them done through LegalZoom. Each will, at that time, was $89. We purchased only the will, without Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, or Medical Directives. We filled them out with the assistance of an automated LegalZoom questionnaire. Since only one of us could fill out the form on the LegalZoom system, that meant either both of us had to pay $89 for a will, or we could do one person’s will, then copy it making changes appropriate for the other spouse.
More Affordable Option
This time, we decided to complete all of these documents, but LegalZoom wanted $149 apiece for the package with just four forms. The $149 package for one person contains a Will, a Living Trust, Advance Directives, and Power of Attorney. We needed two packages.
I decided to check USLegalForms options, and was pleasantly surprised. This package included all the forms we both needed for $49, including a Mutual Will. The will we chose was designed for husband and wife with adult children, as compared to minor children. It also allowed us to fill out all the forms for both of us, as compared to LegalZoom, which required each of us purchase separate packages. Rather than pay $298 for these documents, we opted for USLegalForms’ $49 package, and couldn’t be happier with that purchase.
For that $49 we each completed
- Our separate Wills
- General Durable Power of Attorney for property and finances
- Statutory Power of Attorney
- Medical Durable Power of Attorney
- Declaration of Guardian
They also provided additional forms for
- An inventory list
- Directives to Physicians, Family or Surrogates
- An estate planning questionnaire
- Personal planning
The planning forms are thorough and much easier to organize the information than the rather disorganized one I tried to create. We also received a law guide.
USLegalForms also has an online dictionary, FAQs and the opportunity to submit questions to attorneys through Just Answer, which I believe charges an extra fee depending upon the complexity of the answer. This isn’t the same as legal advice, but is legal information.
Other Legal Considerations
One problem full timers might run into is finding two qualified witnesses at the time you have these documents notarized. Moving around the country means that friends, those who you would normally ask to be witnesses, are not available. We found that many notaries do have witnesses, but also learned that many banks that offer notary services for almost any document, don’t notarize wills. Our solution was to take them to the nearest UPS store. They not only notarized each document (for $5 apiece,) but also allowed their staff to sign as witnesses, solving our biggest problem.
This may be a great solution, especially if you realize the need for legal documents while away from your domicile home. If not a perfect solution, it is a good temporary one, until you can arrange for an attorney to draw up your documents.
LegalZoom has two subscription plans, personal for $14.95/month and business for $29.95 a month. When I subscribed in 2011, I was able to access all the forms they offered. It now looks like you can access only forms in one or the other category.
If you do choose either LegalZoom or USLegalForms, please use our affiliate link (just click on the name of the service.) One of the ways we make our full timer living is by finding products that are useful to RVers, then vetting them to be sure our referrals are quality resources.
Last Minute Update
I just received information about Iris Plans, an Austin TX based company that assists people in creating health planning documents, such as advance directives, living will, medical power of attorney, etc. It isn’t always easy to know what healthcare professionals will do if you state your wishes in your own terms. Will they know what you mean under any situation, or are your wishes conditional on the likelihood of your recovery. If you need a more personalized service, they have medical professionals available to help you understand what these documents mean, and how to fill them out so that your wishes are clearly stated.
I have no idea what they charge for their services, but if you have any doubts about finalizing a document that involves your health care planning and wishes, look into this service.
Wishing y’all great RVing adventures
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