Because it's never too early
April 21, 2006 11:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm 20. How do I go about preparing a legal will and ensuring it will be paid due attention if I should die? And who should I pick as my executor? I live in Maryland.

I'd like to prepare my will, preferably for free, in such a way that it won't be ignored if it is needed. I don't know if writing a letter stating my preferences would be enough, and just filling out this seems too easy. Yet given my limited assets hiring a lawyer would be unnecessarily complicated. Monetary assets include a few thousand in stocks, more than that in a couple of CDs, plus maybe a hundred in government bonds and whatever's in my savings and checking accounts. Material is just what's in my bedroom.

And once I go about doing the will, how do I pick an executor? For various reasons family members are out of the question. The friends I'd feel comfortable asking are all my age, so I don't know if they'd feel comfortable being asked, or carrying out the task if anything should happen.

So what should I do? Are there any websites that offer help on preparing a simple will--most seem geared to people with legal help or a more complicated monetary situation than mine.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total)
Check this out. No forms, but a lot of good Maryland-specific info about must be included in a will.
posted by amro at 11:48 AM on April 21, 2006

Are there any websites that offer help...

posted by cribcage at 11:52 AM on April 21, 2006

The Nolo Press website is one of my first go to spots for basic easy to understand legal advice. Here is their wills section. They say this, in short

Decide what property to include in your will.
Decide who will inherit your property.
Choose an executor to handle your estate.
Choose a guardian for your children.
Choose someone to manage children's property.
Sign your will in front of witnesses.
Store your will safely.

Anyone can be an executor, find someone who is responsible and who you think will be someone you are in contact with in some way for a while. Make sure that someone knows you wrote a will, as well as where to find it if something shoudl happen to you. Unless your will is contested, this shoudl be the barebones outline of what you need to do [it's helpful if your executor knows how to contact the people listed as recipients of your stuff]. Be sure to think about a Living Will at the same time in case you need someone to make medical decisions for you. If you want to make sure you have all bases covered, Quicken makes Willmaker software that you can get for about $30 that will run you through all the steps of preparing and printing a legal will. These are the asteps you need to make your will legal, according to Nolo
Any adult of sound mind is entitled to make a will. Beyond that, there are just a few technical requirements a will must fulfill:

1. The document must expressly state that it's your will.
2. You must date and sign the will.
3. The will must be signed by at least two, or in Vermont, three, witnesses. The witnesses must watch you sign the will, though they don't need to read it. Your witnesses, in most states, must be people who won't inherit anything under the will. (If your state allows "holographic" wills, you don't need witnesses. Holographic wills are discussed above.)

You don't have to have your will notarized. In many states, though, if you and your witnesses sign an affidavit (sworn statement) before a notary public, you can help simplify the court procedures required to prove the validity of the will after you die.
posted by jessamyn at 12:15 PM on April 21, 2006

Banks can act as exectuors. Just check with your local branch of whatever bank you use (Wachovia, SunTrust, B of A) and they should be able to let you know what their deal is with that sort of thing. My mother and I talk about death far too much, and she was just explaining to me the other day that banks (she worked in banking for 40 years) are very good at this sort of thing, including disposal of property such as land, and that if I didn't want to deal with trying to sell all their stuff when they die, the bank could take care of it all for me. Also according to her, it's not expensive.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:26 PM on April 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

You don't have to appoint an executor, either. If the will is probated, the court can appoint someone for you. If you are truly set against certain family members, you can state that in the document.

Unless you are in poor health, the chance that this thing will ever see the light of day is very minimal. Just remember that you should hire a pro when you become a bit more liquid.
posted by MrZero at 3:45 PM on April 21, 2006

Personally, I'd get a professional. If money is a tight, you may want to go to a legal aid clinic for some assistance. This area of the law seems to have many restrictive "terms of art" incorporated into its application, and a misplaced word here or there could thwart your true intentions. IMO, if you have anything worth passing down (or anyone you specifically want/need to protect in the event of your untimely passing) this isn't something you sould DIY.
posted by herc at 3:57 PM on April 21, 2006

This is irrelevant to schroedinger's question, but I was told in notary school that to notarize a holographic will in California invalidated it. I believe that in California notaries are not allowed to notarize any kind of will. It's been a while since I was a notary, though.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:12 PM on April 21, 2006

On rereading, you said your assets include "a few thousand in stocks, more than that in a couple of CDs, plus maybe a hundred in government bonds and whatever's in my savings and checking accounts." Frankly, I, a graduating law student, could draw up a will for you in about 30 minutes. With a consult and an execution, you're looking at maybe 2 hours. With an hourly rate of $150-200, that's not much. Just go see a lawyer. It should not cost you more than a few hundred, and you will not worry any more. Some lawyers might even do a flat-fee for something this small, just to get you to bring in your other business. At the very least, make a few phone calls and you'll get an idea of the fees.
posted by MrZero at 10:05 PM on April 21, 2006

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