24 May 2011

Amazon deal: Willmaker Plus 2011 71% off

Amazon: Quicken WillMaker Plus 2011 [Download]Estate planning. Up there with playing your taxes and monitoring your colon's health. And just as important.

This week, Amazon's Software Deal of the Week is Quicken Willmaker Plus 2011 from Nolo Press. Willmaker is a trusted, inexpensive way to prepare your own will and other estate documents, including health care directives and power of attorney. You take an hour or so to answer interview-style questions, and Willmaker spits out a legal will for you to sign and keep safe. 

The "plus" part of the name are the additional forms included with the software that come in handy right away: promissory notes, general bills of sale, and more.

This week, Willmaker is 71% off the regular price of $69.99. Which means DO IT TODAY. Then breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing you've done right by your kids.

At Amazon: Quicken Willmaker Plus 2011, $19.99

Note: the software is available by download only, and is only usable on Windows computers (Vista, Windows 7 and XP). It's also available only to customers in the United States with a U. S. billing address.

Price good until May 28, 2011 (unless they run out sooner)

Related: Six steps to financially prepare for the unexpected

Your comments

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I am an attorney who focuses my practice on Estate Planning and Elder Law and a HUGE portion of my time is spent "correcting" these do-it yourself kits. There are very specific laws on how wills have to be signed in each state. There are statutory will questions that have to be asked, and answered, out-loud by the person signing the will in front of the witnesses. 99% of these will kits are NOT VALID in the state they are signed in.

Usually, especially in things like this, you get what you pay for.

If you want to get something cheap on the front end, know that it probably will not be valid and the Court will dispose of your property according to the laws in place as if you had died without a will. And if the Court does uphold it, your heirs will spend a TON of money probating the estate. Much more than if you had just gone to an attorney in the first place.

WOW. Thank you for this. Would love to hear more peoples' experiences. My understanding was that, if your financial situation is pretty straightforward, a DIY will can work well, at least from Nolo/Willmaker.

Other people's thoughts? I would really like to talk about this, as I recommend Willmaker all the time.

And we're supposed to trust an attorney's opinion. Sounds like someone may be just a little concerned about loosing some $$$$$.....is that BMW payment due this month?

Isn't it better to have a will that you did yourself than to have nothing in place at all?

Knee-jerk "don't trust lawyers" reaction isn't helpful. I will tell you that, in many situations, having a skilled lawyer on your team is worth every penny.

That's a bit obnoxious.

I'm also an estate planning and probate attorney. If my only interest was financial, then I would want EVERYONE to have DIY wills. I make far more money correcting the huge messes after the fact, than I do by doing it right in the first place.

Don't you want to make sure that it's correct? If you have children, you really want to trust it to a machine. An attorney will sit with you and talk to you and learn who you are and about you and you're family. A computer program only asks the questions that it was programmed to ask.

Plus, as Tiffany said, who knows if you are going to even execute the documents correctly.

Not if it's ineffective, then it's the same thing. Plus, a poorly drafted DIY will could accidentally disinherit a child, or have a child receive everything on their 18th birthday -- free and clear.

I worked at Nolo for 6 years. I was in a different department than the Willmaker team, I'm not an attorney and I haven't worked there for 3 years so take my opinion with a grain of salt if you like.

I am pretty familiar with this software though and I can say that it is carefully structured to make sure that the documents it creates are valid in 49 of the 50 states (not Louisiana). A team of attorneys and developers update the software every year as the various state laws change. This is not a fill-in-the-blanks form -- it asks questions and produces an individualized document to fit your state and situation. You do have to follow the provided directions for signing wills and filing them though, so I can see how problems might arise if someone didn't do that properly. Still, the product has been on the market for over 20 years. If there were major problems with it like the first commenter described, I'm sure I would have heard about it.

Again, I don't represent Nolo -- now I'm just a happy customer (who has used this product herself).

Thank you for this, Wendy. I have been a Nolo user for years -- I went to U. C. Berkeley, and often dropped by the Nolo office! Right now, I'm finding Nolo's special education and IEP guidance incredibly helpful.

All this is to say that I believe in Nolo as a company, and I can't imagine they'd put out a low-quality product. But I'm also not an attorney, and have taken this quality on faith.

Why is it that we've become a country of do it yourselfers? Would you bu a NOLO book on how to remove your own appendix?

Why not pay an expert?

I brought this conversation to Nolo's attention on Twitter and Facebook. Their response: http://www.facebook.com/NoloLaw

Seriously? You're asking this question on Parent Hacks?

While I would never suggest people forgo legal advice and assistance from professionals, generalizing to "a nation of do-it-yourselfers" undermines your point. Too many of us have paid people lots of money to easily and quickly do something we didn't realize we could do ourselves.

Wills may or may not be in this category. But to think every person in America, regardless of their situation, MUST pay a lawyer to draft a document as crucial as a will just seems overblown.

I pay professionals to do plenty of things, including my taxes and estate planning docs. That does not mean I don't want access to tools that let me do both myself.

Agree that the human back-and-forth factor is very important. Has been very helpful for me when it comes to financial planning and legal stuff.

Would it be possible to summarize their response for folks who don't have Facebook accounts? Unless you're logged into Facebook, that link just goes to a generic page about Nolo, not the specific response. Thanks!

This has to be the most arrogant comment I've read here on PH. Having just written a will and advanced medical directive with the help of Nolo (and some well-informed friends in the legal profession) I feel confident in my family's unforeseen future. I also do my own taxes. Yes, if I had a complicated portfolio or estate, I would have a professional do it (and could afford to do so), but we are a single-income household with two children and a major surgery impending. I appreciate that for such a simple matter as designating guardianship, I do not have to "pay an expert", but can easily and privately address these concerns.
One of the things I value in PH is a strong sense of self-reliance and competence in matters of parenting. We don't need the newest gadget or expert to help us raise our children; we ARE the experts. A will is another extension of our empowerment - we do have a say about what happens after our death. It shouldn't be so opaque as to require an expert liason to dictate what hoops to jump through (at so-and-so dollars an hour). Not only wealthy people deserve that voice.

Sorry for the rant; I was irked, and just happened to use this software on Saturday. Husband's spinal surgery is Thursday, and I'm glad to have it all done.

Nolo:
Thanks for your question! Quicken WillMaker Plus' estate planning documents are legally valid in every state except Louisiana. Users can select their state during the software's comprehensive interview process, ensuring that their documents... will be legally valid under their state's laws. But don't take our word for it - send your readers to the WillMaker page on Nolo.com to read reviews from reputable publications such as USA Today, Inc. Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal: http://www.nolo.com/products/quicken-willmaker-plus-WQP.html.

Thanks, Chris!

Best wishes to your husband on his surgery.

Sorry I posted and didn't check back. A couple things:
I am not saying the ACTUAL documents are wrong (I am sure they are fill in the blanks, basic form stuff - and in fact a lot of lawyers use forms). I am saying that the laws in each state differ on how you execute (SIGN) a will. Such as you have to be before two witnesses (NOT related to you and not taking under your will) AND a notary. In a lot of states there also has to be an "attestation" clause. Most forms do not have those. So what happens is people think they have a valid will and when the family goes to probate, it isn't valid. And it gets thrown out and property is disposed of according to state law (not often what people want - for example kids, not spouse, can get up to half).
Second, things like Advance Directives for Healthcare are STATUTORY forms, meaning they are only valid in the state that writes them. I, as an attorney, or anyone, can change certain things but the underlying form has to be what YOUR state legislature wrote. There is no way this kit has every state's advance directive (which they call a "living will" I think, totally wrong terminology.)
I actually am not worried at all about "losing" clients to this sort of service, I make a ton more money on people who use them and then get messed up.
I perform local seminars and will give free consultations or speeches to anyone who wants one explaining the law in my state and how you can do a will, legally, on your own if you want to.
If you have kids, a special situation (tax, medicaid planning), or fighting kids, I would always recommend talking to an attorney.
In addition, under a Power of Attorney, the Attorney-in-Fact (person who serves as your Power of Attorney) is only given those power SPECIFICALLY set out in the document. My document is 12 pages long and based on years of experience. I doubt this one is. Now is a form power of attorney better than none, YES!
I do a ton of stuff pro-bono and I work out payment plans with clients. My goal in life it to make people informed of estate planning issues and to make sure they are protected.
In the power of attorney situation, is it immediate or springing (effective upon your incapacity)? If it is immediate do you want you kid to have that much access to your finances and medical records? If it is springing, do you know how to spring it and does your attorney-in fact?
I am not bashing this service. I just want people to be informed and not waste money and get themselves and their families into a bind.
You wouldn't perform your own surgery would you? Sometimes a good, ethical, expert will save you money, treat you right, and make you happy.

Thank-you, David.
How many people sign this before two unrelated people, a notary, AND ask and answer their state's statutory questions? AS well as adding an attestation clause so your witnesses don't have to go to court and testify once you pass? I have never met a client, who did this correctly. People certainly CAN, i've just never seen it happen.

I actually do most of my work with low-income families or hospice care. I currently work part-time because I have small children at home. A lot of my work hours are spend giving free seminars (truly free, I don't sell anything). My car is a 2001 SUV.

Thanks for the stereotype though. I fell bad for you if that's really how you look at the world.

Again, not saying that their product is defective. Just that I have never seen it used and executed correctly. Not that it never is, just that I haven't seen it.
In fact, I have had people bring in these forms LOTS of times to ask me if they were right. Something was always either done incorrectly, OR in a way I knew they didn't want.
Most reputable attorney's will give a free initial consult. Why not draft one using this and take advantage of that service?

Kate, all the best to you and your family.
Most estate planning lawyers (reputable ones anyway) will give you a flat rate, not hourly. And a free initial consultation to discuss your particular issues.
I do have to just say that designating a guardian is anything but simple. There are a million contingencies you have to think about. Additionally, your guardian needs to be aware that they will become subject to court jurisdiction and will be required to submit an annual report on every penny coming in and out of the guardianship estate as well as the well-being of the ward. A lot of this can be simplified with a good estate plan in place.
The "hoops" you have to jump through aren't put in place by lawyers, but legislatures. And are difficult for even lawyers to navigate (which is why we have continuing legal education requirements each year to remain lawyers).
Nobody can do everything on their own. And while you do have a say as to what happens after you die, if you don't say it correctly, no one will listen. I am sorry but those are the facts.
Truly, the best to you and I hope you and your family are well taken care of legally and the program worked for you. Sincerely.

That was actually my thought. This would be a great way to draft a will that could be checked with an attorney for safe measure.

Yeah! Thanks, Chris!

Kate...wishing you all well, and your husband a speedy recovery. And thank you for what you said about valuing PH's sense of self-reliance and competence. I really appreciate hearing it put that way.

Tiffany and David: I just want you to know how much you've added to this conversation (you kicked it off, actually). It's a very important one and I'm very glad you both weighed in.

One of the things I love most about PH is the quality of the comments and the diversity of opinion and expertise. You both took a lot of time to write your thoughts and check back throughout the day.

Thank you for that.

Too tired to look up the actual stats, but in a world where a substantial percentage of children live in single parent homes, or in households where the biological parents are divorced, or where the minor children in the household are the product of two or three prior marriages, or same sex parents, or a surrogate was involved, or children have chronic medical conditions or special needs, but still may outlive their (often older) parents, why exactly would you entrust the outcome only to software, no matter how functional it might be?

On the other hand, going through the drill with a DIY software program. It probably will spark thought, raise some questions, and hopefully explain the basic process.

But take the result to someone with expertise, sit down and see what it is you did understand, and what you didn't. And be sure to consult someone with financial planning expertise (do you happen to remember who is the beneficiary of your Roth IRA?).

After all, you're the one person who'll never know if things really worked out as you planned.

Speaking of which, who else knows where your will is tonight? Who is going to know ten years from now?

With no disrespect intended at all to Nolo -- I have no doubt that they make a great product -- I must agree with Tiffany on this. Personally, unless I were single with no kids and no property, I would never use a DIY kit when it comes to wills -- and I *am* an attorney (though not in probate and wills, and I no longer practice).

As Tiffany says, the problem often arises when people make assumptions about the responses they put in these software programs -- they omit information because they assume it's not relevant when it is, or there's a nuance they didn't realize was there. Plus, having a lawyer draft your wills allows not just the back-and-forth you get in person, but if, for some reason, there's a law that changes that will affect your will, a good lawyer will contact you alerting you of the change, so you can amend accordingly.

As to the comments about "lawyers just want your money," well, I suppose that there are enough bad lawyers out there that the rest of us have come to expect that sort of negative outlook. But I offer here that a *good* lawyer realizes that she is, in fact, an officer of the court, she takes her oath of professional ethics *very* seriously, and she has the well-being of her clients at the forefront. Which is why it's always a good idea to do some research before hiring a lawyer, to make sure that she is up to the standards you expect of an honest ally and confidant.

An interesting page at the University of Florida Extension. This is a lesson on legal and financial issues for families with step-children.

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy036

Worthwhile reading through to see the range of issues and how the analysis may fit your situation, but then bear in mind the disclaimer at top: adapted for use in Florida.

And to extend a prior riff, you don't do your will for yourself (with a few unpleasant exceptions) you do it for your children, your family and those you care about.

Rather than someone's opinion of what they think will happen, it would be interesting to hear from the beneficiaries of wills, both those written by lawyers and written by software, about their experience of what did happen.

Thanks, david, I really need to refrain from commenting when I'm stressed:) sorry about the "arrogant" part, that was unnecessary.

I think this is a great idea. I just don't want to reinvent the wheel,, but using the NOLO will as a draft is a good idea. Will do.

I find preparing a will to be of extreme importance and a high responsibility towards my family (just want to give them one more reason to love me :). I love money saving and short cuts but in this case I put my trust in my lawyer. Sorry Nolo!

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