Are store bought Wills any good?

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Prince died without one. Snoop Dogg doesn’t have one either. Turns out, estimates reveal that over 60 percent of us die without a Will. If you’re one of the 60+ percent, change that. Dying intestate, i.e., without a Will, can cause a lot of stress for the loved ones—and not so loved ones– you leave behind. That means, don’t take the still living Snoop Dogg’s intestate’s approach.

In a recent interview with BusinessInsider.com, when asked why he hasn’t prepared a Will, Dogg said, “”I don’t give a f— when I’m dead. What am I gonna give a f— about?” The lanky rapper and actor expects to be reincarnated and will be able to “observe the ruckus over his estate from the next life. “

Unlike The Dogg, I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen to me after I die. But I do know that  I find no joy in the notion of  watching those I leave behind squabble over my estate— tiny as it currently is.

I also know that just thinking about a Will, what I’d include in it and who would get what is super stressful. And that formally creating one can be costly. Which is why the first Will I prepared was one of those Office Depot cookie cutter store bought ones that came with a Power of Attorney and Living Will forms included.

It’s been years since I completed that Will’s paperwork and had it all notarized. And yes, my goal this year is to update it and spend a few hundred bucks to create a proper grown-up one. (BTW, even though they focus on life after death, Wills are living documents that need to be updated and changed as your life’s circumstances change.)

But until that happens, store bought Wills aren’t all that horrible. Plus, they could serve as a good temporary beginning point for anyone who currently is sans a Will if, for no other reason, than to get you thinking about all that end-of-life stuff you’d rather ignore but know will one day will be coming your way.

Susan T. Peterson is an attorney with the firm of Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd., in Maple Grove, Minnesota and Chair of her firm’s Estate Planning Department.

In an email exchange, I asked for her opinion on store-bought Will forms.

Her response: “A template/form Will may work.  These are multijurisdictional forms, though, that can create more problems than no Will at all in some cases.  Also, most people who use the forms don’t get the forms filled out just right, and, don’t get them signed just right.  Again, more complications/problems/expense. Plus, the template Will doesn’t always end up matching the testator’s wishes.”

Although there is no comparing the cost of a template/form Will (typically under 40 bucks) with that of one drawn up with your attorney (ranging from a few hundred dollars on up), what matters more than the money is that all the  i’s are dotted and t’s crossed.

“The cost of creating a valid Will done right is miniscule when  compared to the benefits it provides, “ said Peterson

Sound advice for the here and now.

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