The Simple Will: No Frills, No Fuss, No Anxiety

A basic will may be all you need.

You've heard that if you do nothing else to take care of your legal affairs, you should write a will, and it's pretty good advice. If you don't make a will before your death, state law will determine who gets your property and a judge may decide who will raise your children (and either or both may not be whom you would have chosen). Writing such an important document can be daunting, but it doesn't need to be. 

If all you need is a basic will, you can confidently use a good do-it-yourself book or software to make a legally binding will that: 

  • leaves your property to the people and organizations you choose
  • names a guardian to care for your minor children if you can't
  • names someone to manage property you leave to minor children (yours or someone else's), and
  • names your executor, the person with authority to make sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

Will a Basic Will Avoid Probate?

No. If you leave anything more than a small amount of property through a will, probate court proceedings will probably be necessary after your death. Although it varies from state to state, probate can take six months or a year and eat up three to five percent of your estate in lawyers' and court fees. And your beneficiaries will probably get little or nothing until probate is complete. 

But if you need only a basic will, you have little reason to concern yourself now with probate. If you're relatively young and healthy and you don't have piles of money, your real concern is to make legal arrangements for the statistically unlikely event that you will die suddenly and unexpectedly. You've almost certainly got plenty of time to plan for probate avoidance later.

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