The question thousands of Americans are asking themselves during this current pandemic: "Should I be considering creating a Will?" This is a question I have been asked more than a few times over the last several weeks. If there is one good thing that has come out of the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps it is that we are all thinking a little bit deeper about our priorities.
The short answer is a resounding: YES, you should create your Will. But that answer has not changed because of COVID-19. Everyone should have a Will, pandemic or not. Here are some of the most common questions I receive regarding creating a Will, and my thoughts on those questions:
SHOULD I USE AN ONLINE TEMPLATE? Unlike most lawyers, I generally encourage people to research on their own if possible and manage their own affairs when possible. Knowledge is power. However, when it comes to a Will, online templates may not be the answer. Every state has different requirements for a Will to be valid under the Law, and if the Will ends up not being valid, you may be better off without one. If you do decide to use an online template, I would encourage you to seek out an attorney's advice on the laws in your State and whether changes need to be made to ensure that the Will is valid.
BUT AREN'T WILLS EXPENSIVE? A Will does not have to be a complex document requiring many hours of legal billing. The majority of the Wills that I assist with are simple, to the point, and complete. A simple Will is a document that is valid under the laws in your State, and simply states your wishes. Most of the Wills I help create are not nearly as expensive as you might think, and generally my clients are pleased with the total bill. I would encourage you to reach out to a couple attorneys to see if the price range is something that might fit your budget.
HOW WILL I EVEN GET A WILL DONE WITH BUSINESSES SHUT DOWN AND SOCIAL DISTANCING? My office has been working on Wills all throughout the pandemic, by utilizing the wonderful technologies we have. Most attorneys will do a video call or phone call during this time if you prefer to get started sooner rather than later. Upon finalizing the Will, some states now allow e-notary (Montana is one of these states) and that tool may be a great way to get the Will finalized.
I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING WORTH VALUE, SO WHY DO I NEED A WILL? Many people have asked me why they would need a Will, when they don't feel they have anything. Distributing your assets is only one of the reasons you should have a Will. Another big reason you might need a Will is to express your wishes regarding the care of your minor children. Some people feel strongly about creating a Will so their wishes regarding a funeral or burial can be expressed. If you own a business, you may need a Will to express your wishes on the future of that business. These are all great reasons, but one of the most important reasons is to avoid your estate going through lengthy probate processes. Your loved ones will be much better off if you have left them with a legal Will, and it will be one less stress for your loved ones at the time of your death.
I understand that writing a Will can be a daunting and scary task. I am an attorney, and yet I put off writing my Will for many years even after I had the ability to create the document myself. Now that I have practiced for 13+ years, I see how foolish that was. I have watched and read about many families and friends who have been through the ringer attempting to deal with the death of a loved one, only for it to be complicated by a probate process. While a pandemic is a great time to think about our future plans, anytime is a great time to create a Will.