Questions about making a will

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miamivice
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Questions about making a will

Post by miamivice »

Finally decided to get around to making a will. Checked out the WillMaker book + software from the library - very helpful - and started working on it. Had some questions:

1) If I understand it right, my wife and I each need separate wills. So if I die, I can say that my assets go to my wife. When she dies, assets will be divided based on her will. (visa versa)

This seems a little weird to me. We have assets that I might want to go to Entity A, but only if those assets are available when her estate is divided. I wouldn't want to give away a bunch to entity A today and then her have to sacrifice after my death. I suppose I could ask her to include Entity A in her will, but she could always change it later (after I die, for example) and then put things that are important to her in her will but less important to me.

2) The WillMaker software seems to generate very simple wills (like equally dividing assets between children and the like), but wasn't terribly complex like. It seems like everything is given a value and then the overall estate is divided according to the will. Maybe that is what all my wife and I need, but that seemed a little simplistic for a more complex estate.

3) Any other experiences with WillMaker wills versus going to an attorney?

For reference, our estate value today is right about $3 million dollars.
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cheese_breath
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by cheese_breath »

To me, point 1 suggests the need for an attorney to work out the complexities. With a $3 million estate you should be able to pay for a few hours attorney time to get it right. Possibly put the assets in question in a trust for her use but not her ownership?
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InvestorHowie
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by InvestorHowie »

DW and I put our will together several years ago with an attorney (through a law/attorney network plan I opted into for exactly one year with my employer) and it was quite simple. No children so we listed each other as primary beneficiaries and listed our parents and siblings as contingent beneficiaries. Proofread and made a couple corrections and we were done. All one document and in the safe deposit box.

I agree that a couple hours with an attorney is probably worth your while over using software exclusively.
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galawdawg
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by galawdawg »

Do I recall from your other posts that you have minor children? If so, please do your wife, yourself and your children a favor and retain an experienced estate planning attorney to prepare your will and anything else you require. After all, you don't know what you don't know and I'm sure the last thing you would want your wife and/or children to have to deal with in the event of your untimely demise is unintended consequences of DIY estate planning.

For a single person or a couple with no children and a very modest and simple estate, will preparation software is probably okay. But if you and your wife perished together, in a car wreck for example, I'm sure you would want to be certain that arrangements for the care and provision or your children were as you and your wife desired.

Let a trusted and experienced estate planning attorney assist you. It will be one of the best investments you and your wife can make for your family.
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FIREchief
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by FIREchief »

miamivice wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 6:26 pm We have assets that I might want to go to Entity A, but only if those assets are available when her estate is divided. I wouldn't want to give away a bunch to entity A today and then her have to sacrifice after my death. I suppose I could ask her to include Entity A in her will, but she could always change it later (after I die, for example) and then put things that are important to her in her will but less important to me.
I highly recommend that you decide if this is a "might want" or "really want." If the later, you'll need an attorney's help to establish a trust. If you decide it's not important, than a simple DIY will may be just fine.
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.
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FIREchief
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by FIREchief »

galawdawg wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 6:52 pm Do I recall from your other posts that you have minor children? If so, please do your wife, yourself and your children a favor and retain an experienced estate planning attorney to prepare your will and anything else you require. After all, you don't know what you don't know and I'm sure the last thing you would want your wife and/or children to have to deal with in the event of your untimely demise is unintended consequences of DIY estate planning.
I would take this a step further. Anybody with minor children should get a DIY will in place immediately, even if you plan to add "see attorney about estate planning" to your to-do list. Include DIY POAs as well.
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.
MathWizard
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by MathWizard »

Have a lawyer draft wills.

I handle almost everything DIY, but there is no plan B after you're dead.

My wife and I had wills made when had a few thousand net worth.
The primary motivator was our first child, however 30 years later, with one added codicil to change executor, the same wills still work with a NW a little bit less than yours.

A lawyer can put together a will which has all the bases covered, and the exact legalese for your state.
Not Law
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by Not Law »

You can't use canned software wills to deal with the issues you describe. At $3M net worth, you should have an attorney put together what you need.
DocInColo
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by DocInColo »

Boglehead frugality is often admirable, but some things you shouldn't do yourself and need to pay a professional for. Haircuts and estate planning come to mind. If you're worth $3m, you should have no problem hiring an attorney. A simple will shouldn't cost more than $1,000.

Estate planning is absolutely not something to try and do yourself, because the laws are very state specific and one mistake could have huge ramifications if you have a 7-figure net worth.

Our estate planning attorney mentioned how his firm spends more time dealing with poorly drafted estate plans that go awry (many of which are do-it-yourself online wills) than they do actual estate planning. Whereas a professional will may cost $1,000 to get done right the first time, your heirs/estate could spend tens of thousands in attorney fees trying to straighten out a mess you make by trying to do a will yourself.
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galawdawg
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by galawdawg »

FIREchief wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 6:58 pm
galawdawg wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 6:52 pm Do I recall from your other posts that you have minor children? If so, please do your wife, yourself and your children a favor and retain an experienced estate planning attorney to prepare your will and anything else you require. After all, you don't know what you don't know and I'm sure the last thing you would want your wife and/or children to have to deal with in the event of your untimely demise is unintended consequences of DIY estate planning.
I would take this a step further. Anybody with minor children should get a DIY will in place immediately, even if you plan to add "see attorney about estate planning" to your to-do list. Include DIY POAs as well.
Let me modify your suggestion. Anybody with minor children who doesn't already have a professionally prepared will should have an experienced attorney prepare their will immediately. In most cases, having an attorney prepare a correct will should not take any more effort or time than a DIY one. Expecting parents could have it done as part of the process of "getting ready for parenthood." Do it right the first time!
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by Watty »

miamivice wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 6:26 pm For reference, our estate value today is right about $3 million dollars.
I used LegalZoom which is a step above various will making software packages because you also do a telephone conference call with a lawyer. I feel comfortable with the results since I have a simple situation and I have also recommended it in many threads when it was appropriate for simpler situations.

That said there is no way that I would suggest using LegalZoom or DIY software when you have an estate the size of yours.

As others have said you need to have a GOOD estate planning lawyer set up your needed paperwork. Be sure to verify that you are using a good one. You do not want some third tier lawyer just use generic software to crank a generic will.

When you are going through this process pay a lot of attention to all the other related paperwork like power of attorney documents, medical directives, etc. since in many ways there are more important to you than the will since they may be needed while you are still alive.
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FIREchief
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by FIREchief »

galawdawg wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:20 pm
FIREchief wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 6:58 pm
galawdawg wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 6:52 pm Do I recall from your other posts that you have minor children? If so, please do your wife, yourself and your children a favor and retain an experienced estate planning attorney to prepare your will and anything else you require. After all, you don't know what you don't know and I'm sure the last thing you would want your wife and/or children to have to deal with in the event of your untimely demise is unintended consequences of DIY estate planning.
I would take this a step further. Anybody with minor children should get a DIY will in place immediately, even if you plan to add "see attorney about estate planning" to your to-do list. Include DIY POAs as well.
Let me modify your suggestion. Anybody with minor children who doesn't already have a professionally prepared will should have an experienced attorney prepare their will immediately. In most cases, having an attorney prepare a correct will should not take any more effort or time than a DIY one. Expecting parents could have it done as part of the process of "getting ready for parenthood." Do it right the first time!
I don't disagree, except "immediately" is a moving target, especially with COVID. A DIY estate plan can be established in a few days at less than $100. I am in no way discouraging anybody from "doing it right!" 8-)
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.
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FIREchief
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by FIREchief »

DocInColo wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:12 pm Boglehead frugality is often admirable, but some things you shouldn't do yourself and need to pay a professional for. Haircuts and estate planning come to mind. If you're worth $3m, you should have no problem hiring an attorney. A simple will shouldn't cost more than $1,000.
Oh yeah? I paid full price for an estate plan and I pay coupon rates for haircuts. :D
Estate planning is absolutely not something to try and do yourself, because the laws are very state specific and one mistake could have huge ramifications if you have a 7-figure net worth.
I agree to a point. For many people, it will come down to a reasonable DIY plan or no plan. I'm not talking about Bogleheads, but their friends, families, etc.
Our estate planning attorney mentioned how his firm spends more time dealing with poorly drafted estate plans that go awry (many of which are do-it-yourself online wills) than they do actual estate planning.

I'm dubious of this. Asking an estate planning attorney if you should pay him to help you is like asking that aforementioned barber if you need a haircut. :P
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.
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miamivice
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by miamivice »

Just as an aside, nobody has really taken the time to answer my questions that I posted in the first post.

For example, for those with attorney-drafted wills, are they complex? Hard to read? Or are they simple as well.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by galawdawg »

miamivice wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:51 pm Just as an aside, nobody has really taken the time to answer my questions that I posted in the first post.

For example, for those with attorney-drafted wills, are they complex? Hard to read? Or are they simple as well.
Respectfully miamivice, you asked exactly one (1) question in your first post and it has been thoroughly answered. Numbers one and two in your first post simply don't pose a question. Number three is your only question.

To answer your new question, attorney drafted wills will have the appropriate language to be enforceable in your state. Whether it is "hard to read" or "simple" depends on your personal reading ability and the complexity of the estate plan.

My apologies if our efforts to assist you did not meet with your expectations. :happy

miamivice wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 6:26 pm Finally decided to get around to making a will. Checked out the WillMaker book + software from the library - very helpful - and started working on it. Had some questions:

1) If I understand it right, my wife and I each need separate wills. So if I die, I can say that my assets go to my wife. When she dies, assets will be divided based on her will. (visa versa)

This seems a little weird to me. We have assets that I might want to go to Entity A, but only if those assets are available when her estate is divided. I wouldn't want to give away a bunch to entity A today and then her have to sacrifice after my death. I suppose I could ask her to include Entity A in her will, but she could always change it later (after I die, for example) and then put things that are important to her in her will but less important to me.

2) The WillMaker software seems to generate very simple wills (like equally dividing assets between children and the like), but wasn't terribly complex like. It seems like everything is given a value and then the overall estate is divided according to the will. Maybe that is what all my wife and I need, but that seemed a little simplistic for a more complex estate.

3) Any other experiences with WillMaker wills versus going to an attorney?

For reference, our estate value today is right about $3 million dollars.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by bsteiner »

DocInColo wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:12 pm Boglehead frugality is often admirable, but some things you shouldn't do yourself and need to pay a professional for. Haircuts and estate planning come to mind. If you're worth $3m, you should have no problem hiring an attorney. A simple will shouldn't cost more than $1,000.

Estate planning is absolutely not something to try and do yourself, because the laws are very state specific and one mistake could have huge ramifications if you have a 7-figure net worth.

Our estate planning attorney mentioned how his firm spends more time dealing with poorly drafted estate plans that go awry (many of which are do-it-yourself online wills) than they do actual estate planning. Whereas a professional will may cost $1,000 to get done right the first time, your heirs/estate could spend tens of thousands in attorney fees trying to straighten out a mess you make by trying to do a will yourself.
We spend a good deal of time dealing with estates where someone who needed something at a higher level (such as the original poster with $3 million and minor children and wants to provide for the spouse in trust) had a $1,000 Will.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by Gill »

bsteiner wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 8:25 pm
DocInColo wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:12 pm Boglehead frugality is often admirable, but some things you shouldn't do yourself and need to pay a professional for. Haircuts and estate planning come to mind. If you're worth $3m, you should have no problem hiring an attorney. A simple will shouldn't cost more than $1,000.

Estate planning is absolutely not something to try and do yourself, because the laws are very state specific and one mistake could have huge ramifications if you have a 7-figure net worth.

Our estate planning attorney mentioned how his firm spends more time dealing with poorly drafted estate plans that go awry (many of which are do-it-yourself online wills) than they do actual estate planning. Whereas a professional will may cost $1,000 to get done right the first time, your heirs/estate could spend tens of thousands in attorney fees trying to straighten out a mess you make by trying to do a will yourself.
We spend a good deal of time dealing with estates where someone who needed something at a higher level (such as the original poster with $3 million and minor children and wants to provide for the spouse in trust) had a $1,000 Will.
There’s your answer, OP. Get a trusts and estates attorney and do it right.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by galawdawg »

FIREchief wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:43 pm
DocInColo wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:12 pm Our estate planning attorney mentioned how his firm spends more time dealing with poorly drafted estate plans that go awry (many of which are do-it-yourself online wills) than they do actual estate planning.

I'm dubious of this. Asking an estate planning attorney if you should pay him to help you is like asking that aforementioned barber if you need a haircut. :P
I don't do estate planning work, nor do I do domestic relations. But I spent most of my thirty plus years as an attorney in a courtroom litigating cases. And yes, I agree, that legal matters dealing with the fallout from those who attempt DIY estate planning and DIY divorces are very common, and probably very lucrative for the attorneys at the expense of their clients. I've often seen the consequences that result when a frugal or uninformed person chooses to save money on the front end when hiring an attorney would have been the wise decision. If things go wrong it rarely ends well for anyone other than the lawyers. :wink:

And for the posters comparing a haircut to legal work...if cut poorly, just how severe are the consequences? After all, hair grows back. A decedent doesn't get a second opportunity to fix a botched DIY estate plan.

Plus, if your username and avatar refers to your profession (rather than the FIRE movement), you of all people understand what can happen when an amateur attempts a DIY solution to a problem that needs to be handled by a trained professional.

:sharebeer
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by Pu239 »

Although our attorney drafted wills were not cheap, we felt better knowing it was done correctly accounting for nuances that software and we might miss. This is a rare area we decided against doing it ourselves.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by cheese_breath »

miamivice wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:51 pm Just as an aside, nobody has really taken the time to answer my questions that I posted in the first post.

For example, for those with attorney-drafted wills, are they complex? Hard to read? Or are they simple as well.
Don't assume a will is a good will because it's easy to read.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by humblecoder »

miamivice wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 6:26 pm Finally decided to get around to making a will. Checked out the WillMaker book + software from the library - very helpful - and started working on it. Had some questions:

1) If I understand it right, my wife and I each need separate wills. So if I die, I can say that my assets go to my wife. When she dies, assets will be divided based on her will. (visa versa)

This seems a little weird to me. We have assets that I might want to go to Entity A, but only if those assets are available when her estate is divided. I wouldn't want to give away a bunch to entity A today and then her have to sacrifice after my death. I suppose I could ask her to include Entity A in her will, but she could always change it later (after I die, for example) and then put things that are important to her in her will but less important to me.

2) The WillMaker software seems to generate very simple wills (like equally dividing assets between children and the like), but wasn't terribly complex like. It seems like everything is given a value and then the overall estate is divided according to the will. Maybe that is what all my wife and I need, but that seemed a little simplistic for a more complex estate.

3) Any other experiences with WillMaker wills versus going to an attorney?

For reference, our estate value today is right about $3 million dollars.
I am not a lawyer.

Question #1: Yes, you understand correctly. Each person has their own will.

Question #2: Not really a question. This is a statement/observation. It is what it is.

Question #3: Based upon your observation that Willmaker generates "simple wills" and you are concerned that it is too simplistic for your "more complex estate" then this is a sign that you need to go to an attorney, as others have stated.
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skipper
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by skipper »

I'm just now getting to my will at 50 with no minor children. I explored Willmaker, LegalZoom and a couple other online options and decided against all of them for the same reason I do not like finance software; the black box effect. You input your information into their system and they spit it out in their format; I prefer control of my raw data and the way it's output. Based on the limited time I spent with these options, I would say they are best for simple division of simple estates, regardless of size. Even the slightest complication or special situation in your estate might not be accurately reflected in the final product of the available software programs. I wasn't able to spend enough time with them to know how much customization is possible.

What I chose to do is study example wills from my state and others, study the current legal code for my state governing wills and estates, and write my own will using a template I found online. I had two special situations that I needed to be clear. While I agree with what cheese_head said, nevertheless, a good will SHOULD be easy to read. A good will should (1) clearly state your wishes so that your agent/executor can carry them out, (2) be properly executed according to the laws of your state, (3) be properly filed with the court ahead of time by you or after the fact by your agent/executor. As far as I have been able to find, everything else is just detail which may or may not be necessary depending on your situation. If there is no chance your will will be contested, then detailed legalese may be reduced. The potential for contestation or dispute is when the legal detail could most likely protect your wishes.

I believe the law in every state says there's no such thing as a joint will; every individual must have their own will. I really didn't understand your Entity A scenario, which I know wasn't the point of your other questions but I'll offer the following, not as legal advise, but as a segue to my point. Anything you own jointly with your spouse, you have no right to leave to Entity A (again, depending on the laws of your state). If you die first, joint property goes to spouse. If you want to leave it to Entity A, spouse can agree or contest it. Anything you don't own jointly you can leave to Entity A; spouse could still contest it, but probably not as convincingly. And then all of this depends on who/what Entity A is. It also depends on what you and your spouse are able to agree to ahead of time. There are also contingencies that can be written in such as, "if spouse/Entity A predeceases EntityA/spouse, then..." And on, and so forth.

The bottom line is you first have to be able to clearly state what your wishes are in every possible situation and then make sure they are unambiguous to everyone, especially your agent/executor. This is why I think (but could be wrong) software may be suitable only in the most simple situations. Hiring an attorney doesn't guarantee success, but it's probably the best way to make sure your wishes are accurately recorded in a complicated situation (unless you are capable of doing it yourself). I am a DIY layperson with no legal expertise or background; the above is presented for entertainment purposes only.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by cheese_breath »

skipper wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:01 am ....While I agree with what cheese_head said...
Woah, I'm not a Packers fan... :shock:
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by skipper »

cheese_breath wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:17 am
skipper wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:01 am ....While I agree with what cheese_head said...
Woah, I'm not a Packers fan... :shock:
:oops: Haha. Guess I still had visions of the game tonight when I was typing. Sorry breath! :beer

Edit: Missed my chance to say, "My bad, breath." 8-)
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by cheese_breath »

skipper wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:46 am
cheese_breath wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:17 am
skipper wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:01 am ....While I agree with what cheese_head said...
Woah, I'm not a Packers fan... :shock:
:oops: Haha. Guess I still had visions of the game tonight when I was typing. Sorry breath! :beer

Edit: Missed my chance to say, "My bad, breath." 8-)
I'm drinking my morning coffee right now, so you'll have another opportunity in a few minutes.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by Yooper »

miamivice wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:51 pm Just as an aside, nobody has really taken the time to answer my questions that I posted in the first post.

For example, for those with attorney-drafted wills, are they complex? Hard to read? Or are they simple as well.
No.
No.
Yes.

In my opinion, whether you need a will prepared by a lawyer depends on your individual circumstances, not net worth. i.e. A married person with a 3 million estate, all of which is/are in accounts where the spouse is listed as the beneficiary, and no children, can do a simple will themselves. Another person with 500K estate, married and minor children, will probably do well to retain a lawyer. If you're on the fence, do your own will with WillMaker and then go meet with a lawyer. You might be surprised during the interview the questions they raise that you hadn't thought of. However, if they cover everything that's in the will you've already prepared, you could probably forgo having them prepare your will. I say all the above as someone who did my own will via WillMaker, but then a year later talked to a lawyer. I realized that what I currently had was not suitable for what I required, and retained his services. For a data point, the cost of two wills, two durable power of attorney for finances, two patient healthcare advocates was under $1,000 where I live.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by vas »

DocInColo wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:12 pm some things you shouldn't do yourself ... Haircuts and estate planning come to mind.
Ha! That's worth putting in a signature block.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by cheese_breath »

vas wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 11:10 am
DocInColo wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:12 pm some things you shouldn't do yourself ... Haircuts and estate planning come to mind.
Ha! That's worth putting in a signature block.
Or dental work. (Thinking of Mr. Bean)
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delamer
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by delamer »

Yes, you and your wife will require separate wills.

To some extent, the first-to-die is dependent on the second-to-die to honor the first’s wishes if the first leaves everything to the second. For instance, my husband and I have different priorities when it comes to charities. If we (unlikely) die at the same time then our wills are in agreement that half goes to his priorities and half mine. But if I die first, then I am relying on his good faith to not change his will and to support my charities in addition to his own. And vice versa, of course. (FYI, this only happens if our kids don’t survive us.).

Maybe a good estates attorney can mitigate this problem to some extent. However, ultimately, the surviving spouse has a lot of control over how the money gets disbursed — both during the survivor’s lifetime and afterward — if s/he inherits everything. (When not all the deceased’s assets go to the survivor, like those with children from prior relationships, that’s different.)
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by Lee_WSP »

miamivice wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:51 pm
For example, for those with attorney-drafted wills, are they complex? Hard to read? Or are they simple as well.
miamivice wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 6:26 pm
3) Any other experiences with WillMaker wills versus going to an attorney?

For reference, our estate value today is right about $3 million dollars.
Slightly tongue in cheek answer, but if you're perfectly fine with the intestacy laws in general and just want some tweaks as to who gets what, then a DIY or $500-$1,000 estate plan is perfectly fine.

What the lower cost lawyer will be able to help you with are some of the scenarios related to the choices you make when making your bequests. A lawyer familiar with trusts is going to be able to save taxes and/or put safeguards in place to make sure your final wishes are followed through with.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by Lee_WSP »

FIREchief wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:43 pm
Our estate planning attorney mentioned how his firm spends more time dealing with poorly drafted estate plans that go awry (many of which are do-it-yourself online wills) than they do actual estate planning.

I'm dubious of this. Asking an estate planning attorney if you should pay him to help you is like asking that aforementioned barber if you need a haircut. :P
Actually, litigation is where the money is at. It's only $5,000 to $25,000 for an estate plan. Contrast this with modifying a trust and you get $500-$2,000 per billable hour. Each case should take at least 10-50 billable hours; sometimes it takes thousands of hours. Another good chunk of time could be spent asking for private letter rulings. Another gravy train in some states is probate fees (the only reason a living trust *may* be hands down better than a will).

I am not sure of this, but I doubt there are many or any medium sized firms that only do estate planning document drafting.

Medium firms have to pay all those associates and support staff for something. Drafting documents is not how they make their money.
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FIREchief
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by FIREchief »

Lee_WSP wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 12:35 pm
FIREchief wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:43 pm
Our estate planning attorney mentioned how his firm spends more time dealing with poorly drafted estate plans that go awry (many of which are do-it-yourself online wills) than they do actual estate planning.

I'm dubious of this. Asking an estate planning attorney if you should pay him to help you is like asking that aforementioned barber if you need a haircut. :P
Actually, litigation is where the money is at. It's only $5,000 to $25,000 for an estate plan. Contrast this with modifying a trust and you get $500-$2,000 per billable hour. Each case should take at least 10-50 billable hours; sometimes it takes thousands of hours.
Yeah, my comment/joke didn't age very well Lee, likely because it lacked context. I wasn't referring to the miniscule minority with estates over $10M. My intended context was the average Joe with an estate well under $1M. Could his DIY will be challenged in court? Sure. But if it's sister Sue claiming that brother Bo "owes" her Dad's gun collection, I doubt either the plaintiff or the executor is going to pull out their wallets to the tune of $2000 per hour. :D
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.
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miamivice
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by miamivice »

delamer wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 12:21 pm Yes, you and your wife will require separate wills.

To some extent, the first-to-die is dependent on the second-to-die to honor the first’s wishes if the first leaves everything to the second. For instance, my husband and I have different priorities when it comes to charities. If we (unlikely) die at the same time then our wills are in agreement that half goes to his priorities and half mine. But if I die first, then I am relying on his good faith to not change his will and to support my charities in addition to his own. And vice versa, of course. (FYI, this only happens if our kids don’t survive us.).

Maybe a good estates attorney can mitigate this problem to some extent. However, ultimately, the surviving spouse has a lot of control over how the money gets disbursed — both during the survivor’s lifetime and afterward — if s/he inherits everything. (When not all the deceased’s assets go to the survivor, like those with children from prior relationships, that’s different.)
Thank you, for sharing both your knowledge as well as some insight to the decisions that you and your wife have made. That helps a lot.
whomever
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by whomever »

" You might be surprised during the interview the questions they raise that you hadn't thought of."

One example, when we sat down many moons ago for our first will - we're listing beneficiaries, and I say 'my brother and his wife'. The lawyer looks up and asks 'His current wife, or his wife at the time you die?'. I hadn't thought about that (and, happily, my brother is still happily married all these decades later!).
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by tibbitts »

I made my will with Willmaker several years ago. It did everything I needed, or at least I hope it did, but I trust the beneficiary, while you don't. Honestly there's a spectrum of how certain you want to be that your wishes will be carried out, and you can end up involving an army of people basically constituting checks and balances if you want. My sense is that you're expecting Willmaker to enable you to do that, and I don't think that's a reasonable expectation. How did you decide you needed to create a will and not both a trust and a will? I'm not an expert but this situation seems to pretty clearly require a trust.
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miamivice
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by miamivice »

tibbitts wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 1:57 pm I made my will with Willmaker several years ago. It did everything I needed, or at least I hope it did, but I trust the beneficiary, while you don't. Honestly there's a spectrum of how certain you want to be that your wishes will be carried out, and you can end up involving an army of people basically constituting checks and balances if you want. My sense is that you're expecting Willmaker to enable you to do that, and I don't think that's a reasonable expectation. How did you decide you needed to create a will and not both a trust and a will? I'm not an expert but this situation seems to pretty clearly require a trust.
Thank you.

It is not that I don't trust my beneficiary (wife) or that I am expecting Willmaker to do this or that. I'm just starting the process and had a few questions, and asked them here. I appreciate the helpful information that folks have suggested.

I do think that Willmaker is probably sufficient for our needs, and the wills that it produces are probably no less complex than the $1,000 wills from an attorney's office, because that is about 4 hours of an attorney's time, so those can't be complex.

I think the more I learn about the (not very fun subject) prior to making the will, the more effective the will be that I create, whether I use a DIY will or go with an attorney.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by jt90505 »

I'm late to the game but having just had a living trust set up, a couple of comments...
You most likely will want to avoid probate, which is typically slow and potentially expensive for an estate of your size. I would suggest getting your probate assets small enough to qualify for Small Estate Probate which is faster and much, much, cheaper. What qualifies as small varies by state.

Using beneficiaries takes precedence over what is in your will and the assets are not subject to probate (ie: make sure you have primary and contingent beneficiaries for all your accounts, and don't have the beneficiary be your 'estate')

Its not clear if you have children, if you do obviously specify guardians. A trust, while not cheap, allows you to delay full transfer of assets to the kids until they are at an age where they hopefully will be mature enough to handle a large sum...while providing for their expenses until they reach that age. For an estate of your size consider who will be trustee for the assets until your children reach 18. The trustee does not have to be the guardian, a 'professional' trustee (Fidelity, etc.) could be specified in the trust with guidelines for how the money must be distributed.

If no children, big advantage of trust is if the living trust own the house removes the house is not longer subject to probate
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by bsteiner »

jt90505 wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:44 pm ...
[1.] You most likely will want to avoid probate, which is typically slow and potentially expensive for an estate of your size. ...

[2.] ... A trust, while not cheap, allows you to delay full transfer of assets to the kids until they are at an age where they hopefully will be mature enough to handle a large sum...while providing for their expenses until they reach that age. For an estate of your size consider who will be trustee for the assets until your children reach 18. ...

[3.] If no children, big advantage of trust is if the living trust own the house removes the house is not longer subject to probate
1. Possibly but probably not. It doesn't usually take very long to probate a Will, though in some places the courts are taking longer than usual now due to the pandemic. In some states the filing fee varies depending on the size of the estate, in some states it's the same regardless of the size of the estate, and in New Jersey it's based on the number of pages in the Will. It's generally not expensive. Revocable trusts make sense in some cases and in some states. However, the original poster didn't provide any information that would indicate that a revocable trust would be appropriate in his situation.

2. It doesn't cost much more to do a Will that provides for the children in trust rather than outright. Very few of our clients allow their children to gain control of their trusts at 18. Most of our clients think that 18 is too young for a child neither of whose parents is living to control a large amount of money.

3. You probate the Will, not the assets. The original poster didn't provide any information that would indicate that a revocable trust would be appropriate.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by Naismith »

Being in our 60s and inspired by Covid, we just finished our third will through the years (changes both in state law and guardians/executors as our own children grew up). We paid $1,400 for an estate planning package that includes
  • - a will. One of the issues for us is that my oldest son was never legally adopted by my husband, so the language throughout designates him as a child for purposes of inheritance, which he otherwise would not be considered.
    - health care surrogate (each other, then our designated children) to make medical decisions should we be unable
    - pre-need guardian designation (this designates our own choice for a guardian should one need to be appointed by a court if incapacitated)
    - durable power of attorney. This is a powerful document, and we had it done (because there were times it would have been useful when we were living overseas). But we are not really letting our kids know it was made, and we store it in a different place than most other documents.
    -ladybird deed, which avoids probate on our house by leaving it directly to our living children (available in 15 states).
    -designated recipient of remains. To ensure that our chosen person could handle the funeral arrangements.
The lawyer was also very helpful in explaining what some of the legalese means, because being clear to us and being clear to a court if necessary may be two different things. The lawyer was also helpful advising us on titling our various retirement accounts, and thinking through the decision of whether to do a trust or a will. As a result of conversations with the lawyer, I added several notes to "the notebook" that I had kept for years, to clarify things for beneficiaries.

Our assets are not as great as yours, but it still seemed worth it to us, to think through all that and have it in place. And since our own state had some changes since the last time we made a will, I definitely see the value of a LOCAL lawyer.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by Sandi_k »

Piggybacking on other posts:

you want a trust. A trust can protect the assets from the in-laws, should divorces happen. A will would pass to your heirs unprotected; a lawsuit against your heirs, or a divorce could ensure that your hard-earned estate passes to those other than your immediate family.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by Lee_WSP »

FIREchief wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 12:44 pm
Lee_WSP wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 12:35 pm
FIREchief wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:43 pm
Our estate planning attorney mentioned how his firm spends more time dealing with poorly drafted estate plans that go awry (many of which are do-it-yourself online wills) than they do actual estate planning.

I'm dubious of this. Asking an estate planning attorney if you should pay him to help you is like asking that aforementioned barber if you need a haircut. :P
Actually, litigation is where the money is at. It's only $5,000 to $25,000 for an estate plan. Contrast this with modifying a trust and you get $500-$2,000 per billable hour. Each case should take at least 10-50 billable hours; sometimes it takes thousands of hours.
Yeah, my comment/joke didn't age very well Lee, likely because it lacked context. I wasn't referring to the miniscule minority with estates over $10M. My intended context was the average Joe with an estate well under $1M. Could his DIY will be challenged in court? Sure. But if it's sister Sue claiming that brother Bo "owes" her Dad's gun collection, I doubt either the plaintiff or the executor is going to pull out their wallets to the tune of $2000 per hour. :D
Ah, I get it now.

That said, since probate challenges can be and typically are contingency based with the executor using up the estate for the defense, it's really only a win for the lawyers who get paid.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by bsteiner »

Sandi_k wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 4:16 pm Piggybacking on other posts:

you want a trust. A trust can protect the assets from the in-laws, should divorces happen. A will would pass to your heirs unprotected; a lawsuit against your heirs, or a divorce could ensure that your hard-earned estate passes to those other than your immediate family.
You're in California so you would probably do a revocable trust. But the dispositive provisions such as the trusts for the children, and the asset protection that provide, would be the same whether they were in a Will or in a revocable trust.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by Sandi_k »

bsteiner wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 4:46 pm
Sandi_k wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 4:16 pm Piggybacking on other posts:

you want a trust. A trust can protect the assets from the in-laws, should divorces happen. A will would pass to your heirs unprotected; a lawsuit against your heirs, or a divorce could ensure that your hard-earned estate passes to those other than your immediate family.
You're in California so you would probably do a revocable trust. But the dispositive provisions such as the trusts for the children, and the asset protection that provide, would be the same whether they were in a Will or in a revocable trust.
Thanks for the clarification. Much appreciated.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by Lee_WSP »

The lawyer was also helpful advising us on titling our various retirement accounts, and thinking through the decision of whether to do a trust or a will. As a result of conversations with the lawyer, I added several notes to "the notebook" that I had kept for years, to clarify things for beneficiaries.
This is the part that most Bogle head commenters leave out or gloss over. Great plans can be undone because of forgetting to remove/change beneficiaries. Also trusts are complicated, a living trust is only the tip of the tip of the iceberg.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by delamer »

Lee_WSP wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 5:11 pm
The lawyer was also helpful advising us on titling our various retirement accounts, and thinking through the decision of whether to do a trust or a will. As a result of conversations with the lawyer, I added several notes to "the notebook" that I had kept for years, to clarify things for beneficiaries.
This is the part that most Bogle head commenters leave out or gloss over. Great plans can be undone because of forgetting to remove/change beneficiaries. Also trusts are complicated, a living trust is only the tip of the tip of the iceberg.
Part of our attorney’s service was to fill out the appropriate beneficiary forms and have us sign them. The only thing we had to do was put them in the mail.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by senex »

miamivice wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:17 pm
I think the more I learn about the (not very fun subject) prior to making the will, the more effective the will be that I create, whether I use a DIY will or go with an attorney.
Agree. Spending $100 on a software will could save way more than $100 worth of an attorney’s time later, because you will be more prepared for the discussions.

The software wills and attorney-drafted wills seen personally by me have been quite similar. It simply isn’t that hard to split up assets, to have contingencies, etc.

The two big differences I’ve noticed are that attorney-drafted ones have much more sophisticated trust language, and that a good attorney will ensure your beneficiary designations are properly coordinated. The former is important if you want to control your money from the grave, or if you want some asset protections for your heirs by locking the money into a more expensive, complicated structure. The beneficiary coordinations are always important to get right, because they can defeat a plan. (for instance, if your will says all child money goes into trust, but you list child as secondary beneficiary of your biggest account, then that money won’t go into trust, and child will get it lump sum at 18-21.)

One other thought, IRA inheritance is strangely complicated if you want to tax optimize, and I don’t think software wills address that issue at all.
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by tibbitts »

senex wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 8:46 pm One other thought, IRA inheritance is strangely complicated if you want to tax optimize, and I don’t think software wills address that issue at all.
Is it even possible to tax optimize tIRA inheritance? How?
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by jt90505 »

bsteiner wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:59 pm
jt90505 wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:44 pm ...
[1.] You most likely will want to avoid probate, which is typically slow and potentially expensive for an estate of your size. ...

[2.] ... A trust, while not cheap, allows you to delay full transfer of assets to the kids until they are at an age where they hopefully will be mature enough to handle a large sum...while providing for their expenses until they reach that age. For an estate of your size consider who will be trustee for the assets until your children reach 18. ...

[3.] If no children, big advantage of trust is if the living trust own the house removes the house is not longer subject to probate
1. Possibly but probably not. It doesn't usually take very long to probate a Will, though in some places the courts are taking longer than usual now due to the pandemic. In some states the filing fee varies depending on the size of the estate, in some states it's the same regardless of the size of the estate, and in New Jersey it's based on the number of pages in the Will. It's generally not expensive. Revocable trusts make sense in some cases and in some states. However, the original poster didn't provide any information that would indicate that a revocable trust would be appropriate in his situation.

2. It doesn't cost much more to do a Will that provides for the children in trust rather than outright. Very few of our clients allow their children to gain control of their trusts at 18. Most of our clients think that 18 is too young for a child neither of whose parents is living to control a large amount of money.

3. You probate the Will, not the assets. The original poster didn't provide any information that would indicate that a revocable trust would be appropriate.
Are you suggesting questions regarding appropriateness of a trust should not be asked?

How Florida Probate Attorney Fees Are Decided
According to the statutes, a formal administration of an estate must take place when the compensable value of the estate exceeds $40,000 and doesn’t qualify for summary administration. The following examples are considered presumptively reasonable fees when compared to the compensable value of an estate:

For estates of $40,000 or less: $1,500
For estates between $40,000 and $70,000: $2,250
For estates between $70,000 and $100,000: $3,000
For estates between $100,000 and $900,000: 3% of the estate’s value
For estates between $1 million and $3 million: 2.5%
For estates between $3 million and $5 million: 2%
For estates between $5 million and $10 million: 1.5%
For estates of $10 million and above: 1%
Depending on your case’s complexity, your attorney may also charge an hourly rate to your estate.

For your reference, the fees chart below is a quick breakdown of California statutory compensation for attorneys and personal representatives in probate cases for different sizes of estates. It is important to stress that both the attorney AND the personal representative are paid under this statute. Thus, if both the attorney and the executor elect to receive a fee, the amount paid will be double that shown below. This can be an important point with regard to budgeting.

Value of Estate Compensation to Attorney/Personal Representative
$100,000 $4,000
$200,000 $7,000
$300,000 $9,000
$400,000 $11,000
$500,000 $13,000
$600,000 $15,000
$700,000 $17,000
$800,000 $19,000
$900,000 $21,000
$1,000,000 $23,000
$1,500,000 $28,000
$2,000,000 $33,000
bsteiner
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by bsteiner »

jt90505 wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 11:57 pm ...
How Florida Probate Attorney Fees Are Decided
According to the statutes, a formal administration of an estate must take place when the compensable value of the estate exceeds $40,000 and doesn’t qualify for summary administration. The following examples are considered presumptively reasonable fees when compared to the compensable value of an estate:

For estates of $40,000 or less: $1,500
For estates between $40,000 and $70,000: $2,250
For estates between $70,000 and $100,000: $3,000
For estates between $100,000 and $900,000: 3% of the estate’s value
For estates between $1 million and $3 million: 2.5%
For estates between $3 million and $5 million: 2%
For estates between $5 million and $10 million: 1.5%
For estates of $10 million and above: 1%
Depending on your case’s complexity, your attorney may also charge an hourly rate to your estate.
...
That's misleading in several ways.

The lawyer doesn't get both time and a percentage. It's one or the other, or whatever other method the lawyer and the personal representative agree to, subject to review by the court.

The schedule is presumed to be reasonable (with the addition of 0.5% on the first $10 million and 0.25% above $10 million if the lawyer prepares the estate tax return). However, the lawyer and the client may agree to a different method. We almost always handle estates on a time basis. It usually comes out to less than the schedule, though occasionally there can be a great deal of work in a modest size estate. If a client wants a flat or percentage fee, it has to be more than what we would estimate that the time would be, since it takes time to come up with an estimate, it takes time to write out what's included and what's extra, we're taking a risk, and the client who wants a flat or percentage fee is likely to use more time than average for the same project.

While larger estates are on average more complicated than smaller estates, some small estates are complicated and some large estates are relatively simple.

Even though the schedule of presumed reasonable fees only attributes a small portion of the fee to the estate tax return, that's often the largest single component of the work. At one time we did estate tax returns in almost every estate. The Federal estate tax exclusion amount was $675,000 as recently as 2001. In an estate where no estate tax return will be filed (an unmarried person with an estate under $11.7 million, or a married person with an estate under $11.7 million where there's no reasonable need to file a return for portability), the fees on a time basis will usually be substantially less than if we were preparing an estate tax return.

Also, if there's a dispute or tension between the personal representative and a beneficiary, and we have to do an accounting (either because the beneficiary demands one or the beneficiary won't sign a release and the personal representative wants the court to approve an accounting), that will add a significant amount to the cost.

It's not as if the lawyer would work for free if there were a revocable trust. Florida also has a statutory schedule of presumed reasonable attorneys' fees for the attorney for the trustee of a revocable trust. That schedule is 75% of the above schedule of presumed reasonable fees for the attorney for the personal representative. On a time basis, our fees would be almost the same either way, since probating the Will and dealing with the court is usually a small part of the work; and even if there's a revocable trust we usually end up having to probate the Will anyway for one reason or another.
senex
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Re: Questions about making a will

Post by senex »

tibbitts wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 9:50 pm Is it even possible to tax optimize tIRA inheritance? How?
Some options include:

1) Convert to Roth while alive
2) If multiple beneficiaries, leave tIRA to the beneficiary in the lowest tax bracket
3) If will includes donations to charity, give the tIRA to charity
4) If minor beneficiary(ies), certain trust language can delay RMDs til age 18, while other trust language may not (*)
5) Use one of the charitable trusts (I forget which one) to replicate "the stretch." This can be net effective even if you weren't planning on donating to charity (**)

Last time I looked at software wills, the software didn't discuss any of these points. It didn't even discuss that you might want to think about your tIRA differently than other assets.

(*) I'm still confused about it, but I think there are some good bsteiner posts (and perhaps articles he has written?) about it
(**) I recall bsteiner has posted about it recently -- I recommend searching his posts
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