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Here are some frequently asked questions.
How is Thoughtful Wills different than LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, Willing, etc.?
We are thoughtful lawyers dedicated to creating wonderful Wills for our clients – they are websites pretending to be lawyers.
It’s like the difference between an actual doctor’s office and diagnosing your own illness with WebMD. One involves licensed professional practicing their craft – the other is a computer program giving you its best guess.
We’re an actual law firm, authorized to practice law and give legal advice. We review each Will we create to ensure it is conforms to the laws of your state. Their websites are artfully phrased to make it sound like you’re working with lawyers, but you aren’t.
LegalZoom can’t give legal advice and their customers aren’t protected by attorney-client privilege.
Sure, RocketLawyer probably has a bunch of lawyers on staff – but so does Walmart.
Willing is proud that lawyers drafted their template documents, but they don’t practice law – they don’t review your Will and can’t be sure your Will is valid.
Just to be clear, there are many routes to creating a valid Will – a lawyer isn’t a requirement (although with such an important document, we strongly urge you to use a lawyer). You can visit the public library – check out a book for free that tells you how to write a Will. You can use the products offered by websites like RocketLawyer. For many people, libraries and those websites are a good fit.
But if you want the peace of mind that comes from having a lawyer draft and review your Will, you have to hire an actual lawyer to draft and review your Will.
How is Notesong & Nathan LLP different than a traditional law firm?
Mostly, we’re the same. Our firm, Notesong & Nathan LLP, is owned and operated by licensed attorneys – we have clients who are protected by attorney-client privilege – we’re subject to the ethical rules of the states where we’re licensed to practice – we dork out about legal concepts.
The difference is that we built our firm with a very specific goal: to pair the convenience and cost-savings of technology with the expertise of real, licensed lawyers.
We’re worried that too many people don’t use a lawyer to create their Will(s) because:
1. They don’t want to spend $800 – $1700, and/or
2. Finding and scheduling time to go meet with an attorney is a hassle.
Here’s how it works in practice:
Instead of emailing you an intake questionnaire, having you come to our offices, then walking through your answers, we turned our intake questionnaire into a responsive online interview. We use your answers to create a custom Will, just like a traditional law firm, and one of our lawyers reviews that Will to make sure it’s shipshape and ready for your signature.
Two other differences:
i. We don’t meet with you in person. We don’t have fancy offices or bottles of water with our logo. We work with you online – whenever it’s convenient for you.
ii. Our lawyers devote their time and attention to creating and reviewing Wills. If you have questions, you’ll interface with our support staff instead of speaking directly with our lawyers. We are completely devoted to outstanding client service – being friendly, helpful, and responsive. A traditional firm is happy let you talk to the lawyer, but then they bill for that time.
We’re not the right fit for everybody. If you’ve got millions and want to create a multigenerational trust to control your grandchildren, we’re not the lawyers for you. If shaking hands with your lawyer or being able to reach her by phone is a deal-killer, we totally respect that too.
How much does a traditional law firm charge to create a Will?
Lawyer rates are hugely variable – but we often hear “around a thousand dollars” given as a ballpark for a custom Will.
We’ve heard of other lawyers who quote a lower rate that’s comparable to ours, but their Will only covers an unmarried person with no kids. You pay more to include guardians, more to create a child trust, more to include pets.
The Thoughtful Will is a comprehensive offering – the pricing doesn’t shift depending on which options you choose.
I already have a Will, but it needs to be updated...
New kids? Or maybe you’ve become a “dog person”? Maybe you need to change how your Estate is distributed?
We’ve got you covered – the Thoughtful Will is an affordable option for updating or replacing your current Will.
If you already have a Will, the Thoughtful Will can either (i) amend and supplement your old Will, or (ii) revoke/cancel and replace your old Will.
We’ll ask you during the Interview if you have a Will – and then we’ll ask if your new Will should amend or revoke the old one.
I have young children...
Two ways the Thoughtful Will can help protect your kids:
1. Naming a Legal Guardian
2. Creating a trust to protect their inheritance
Legal Guardian. We’ll help you choose a legal guardian to care for your kid(s) until they’re 18 (along with one or two backups).
Child/Maturity Trust. We’ll also discuss the option of creating a Child/Maturity Trust to protect your child’s inheritance. You pick a trustee who monitors the assets and authorizes spending for things like shelter, education, and medical care. Then, when your child reaches a certain age they receive full control over the trust’s assets.
I have pets...
Two ways the Thoughtful Will can help protect your pets:
1. Naming a Pet Guardian
2. Giving money to the guardian or creating a Pet Trust
Pet Guardian. We’ll help you choose a guardian who will care for your pets. You can also name one or two backup guardians.
Money to the Pet Guardian or a Pet Trust. Your Will can either give money directly to the guardian or you can establish a Pet Trust. Giving money directly to the guardian avoids the expense of a trust, but nothing prevents the guardian from ditching your pets and pocketing the money.
The most secure mechanism is creating a Pet Trust. You’ll pick a trustee who monitors the trust and gives money to the guardian to cover the costs and expenses of caring for your pets. If there’s money left in the trust after your pets are gone, you can donate it to a charity (or your choosing) or have that money go back to your estate.
I have a loved one with addiction....
We’ve created a trust for situations like yours – it’s called the Protective Lifelong Trust. Protective Lifelong Trusts aren’t reserved for family members – you can create one for anybody who needs it.
You pick the trustee who oversees the trust account and governs spending. The trustee ensures the inheritance is spent wisely for necessities like food/shelter, medical care, and education. If the trust is large enough, the trustee can authorize spending for non-essentials like a car, wedding, etc. Depending on the situation, the Trustee can pay expenses directly to ensure the money isn’t squandered or used to feed an addiction.
Each Protective Lifelong Trust lasts for the lifetime of its recipient.
I have a loved one with special needs...
A Special Needs Trust is a great option for a loved one who has special needs and receives government assistance. You choose the trustee who manages the trust account and authorizes spending to help the recipient.
Because so many government benefits are tied to assets/income, an inheritance could inadvertently end those benefits. By putting the inheritance in a trust, your loved one doesn’t receive ownership of the assets in a way that jeopardizes their eligibility.
The Special Needs Trust lasts for the lifetime of the recipient (unless there’s a change in circumstances).
I have a small business...
In most circumstances, a Will isn’t the best way to deal with a small business.
If you have one or more business partners, you all should consult with a small business attorney to work through contingencies (e.g., Do your heirs inherit your share of the business? Is the business allowed to/required to buy them out?).
If you’re the only owner, it’s certainly feasible to transfer your business via the Will (although we’d still suggest you consult with an attorney who specializes in small business advising) – contact us for specific phrasing to use in your Will.
I have real estate...
There are several mechanisms for transferring real estate.
If your property is co-owned in “joint tenancy”, most states provide that the surviving owner automatically receives the property regardless of what a Will says.
If you’re the only owner of the property or if you own property as “tenants in common”, your Will can be useful for transferring the real estate.
Mechanism 1. The real estate can be a special gift in your Will. You’ll name the recipient and backup.
Mechanism 2. If you don’t list it as a special gift, the real estate will be included with the rest of your Estate (We’ll help you create a plan for your Estate – you choose one or more recipients and pick percentages).
Real estate can be complicated – often it’s easiest to email us so we can help explain your options and/or help you with the correct phrasing to use in your Will.
I have valuable heirlooms...
When there’s a specific item that you want to give to a specific person, we call those “special gifts”. You can use the Thoughtful Will to create as many special gifts as you’d like.
Each special gift is paired with a recipient and a backup recipient.
Many kinds of special gifts can actually be written after you sign your Will by using a separate writing (we include a “Letter of Special Gifts” with your Will). Other kinds of gifts (like cash or real estate) aren’t valid in the separate writing and must be written into the Will before you sign. We cover those details in our Pre-Interview Worksheet and again during the Interview.
How long until I receive my Thoughtful Will?
Much depends on you. With your help, we can send your Will within three business days.
1. You receive your Interview link as soon as you complete payment.
2. After you finish the Interview, we send the Will to you within three business days.
Do I need a Will?
Priorities and circumstances determine each person’s best estate plan.
If your primary goal is taking care of your young kids, or your pets, or your vulnerable loved ones, the Thoughtful Will is a great option for you.
If your primary goal is finding an affordable mechanism to make sure your treasured heirlooms make it to the right people or charities, to leave final instructions for your memorial service, or to ask loved ones to continue a legacy of giving, the Thoughtful Will is a great option for you.
If your primary goal is avoiding probate expenses or setting up a multi-generational trust – we aren’t the right lawyers for you.
Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re uncertain. If we aren’t a good fit for your priorities, we’ll let you know.
Can my spouse/partner and I use the same Will?
Nope – each person must have their own Will.
In some instances it’s feasible to create a mirrored clone of the first Will – if your circumstances make that a viable option, we’ll let you know.
Can I meet with/speak with the lawyer?
Sadly no – keeping our services affordable requires that we carefully limit attorney time to reviewing Wills.
That said, we’re committed to giving excellent service. Our support staff are helpful and patient and they work directly with you – and they interface with the attorneys to get your questions answered (they’re also supervised by an attorney).
What does "_____" mean?
Most Wills are still chock-full of arcane “legalese”.
We ditched most of these words when writing the Thoughtful Will, replacing them with plain language that is legally precise.
But folks still ask about defined terms – so we created a glossary – it contains the words we use and the words we avoid… CLICK HERE
If you didn’t find the answer to your question…
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