What is a Will & Trust Kit?

By Anna Assad

A will and trust kit provides forms and instructions for a person who wants to make a will or create a living trust. Wills and living trusts are common estate planning tools used to plan for the distribution of property after one's death. A will is a written document with directions for estate distribution, while a living trust is an agreement used to manage assets while a person is still living and after their death. If you're considering a will and trust kit, you'll need to evaluate the different types available and their associated benefits and drawbacks.

Types

Will and trust kits come in the following formats: online fill-in forms, mixture of both online fill-in and paper forms, or all paper forms. Some kits include software that provides all or some forms. Online-only kits take the user through a series of questions then prepares printable, final will and trust papers for the user to sign. Mixed kits have forms included in the kit — usually the most common forms, such as a simple will — and online access or software for those who need more specific or less standard forms. Paper kits usually have copies of basic will and trust papers, along with some special state-only or situation-specific forms. All kits come with instructions, but the level of detail varies by kit manufacturer. State-specific kits have forms tailored for one or a handful of states, while general kits have forms used in many areas.

Kit Form Types

Trust and will forms vary by kit. Common forms include blank, type-in wills and blank, type-in trust agreements. Some kits include forms for an irrevocable living trust agreement, a trust the maker can't alter except under special circumstances, and forms for revocable living trust agreements, a trust that can be changed or terminated at any time. Kits may include more complex will fill-in forms. For example, you may want to create a testamentary trust in your will wherein you place estate assets into the trust by leaving the assets to the trust in your will. A kit with more complex forms may include a blank will with testamentary trust language already included.

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Benefits

Using a will and trust kit allows you to create a will or trust privately and may save you time and money. Will and trust kits are less expensive than attorney fees in most areas. If you have a basic estate, making your own will or trust may be relatively simple and easy to do with clear directions and a will and trust kit from a reputable provider.

Drawbacks and Warnings

Your will or trust must meet legal requirements for validity in your state. If you use a general will or trust form or misunderstand the kit's directions, you may end up with a will or trust that has the wrong terms or isn't valid under your state's laws. Estate planning often involves using specific strategies to take advantage of income tax benefits. You may end up costing your beneficiaries more if you're unaware of the tax implications of your estate plan. There are legitimate will and trust kits available from online legal document providers, but some products advertised as kits are actually scams. According to the Michigan State Bar's official website, companies that directly contact people to offer estate planning services, either in person or by mail, are suspect. Avoid a company that tries to sell you other products, such as insurance, or wants you to make specific investments as part of your estate planning.

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The Average Cost of Making a Will

References

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Doing Wills Online

You can privately prepare your will online through a will preparation website, but whether or not online will drafting is right for you depends on your financial and personal circumstances. An attorney may be needed to prepare your will and review the document for accuracy and compliance with your state's legal standards, especially if you are providing for the guardianship of minor children.

Do-It-Yourself Living Trusts & Last Wills

A living trust transfers control of your property to a trust while you are alive. You may serve as trustee; a successor takes over after you die. A will takes effect after you die; an executor administers the distribution of your estate. Many people consider do-it-yourself forms or online software programs to draft their own living trusts and last wills. It may be possible to construct a valid document that distributes your estate according to your wishes. However, experts generally agree that beyond the most uncomplicated circumstances, saving money with a do-it-yourself-will or trust may produce unintended, detrimental consequences.

What Does a Simple Will Cost?

A “simple will” means different things to different people. If you’re not a legal professional, you may think that if you don’t have much property to bequeath, writing a will should be simple. If you ask an attorney for a simple will, however, he will take it to mean that you want to leave everything to your spouse, and when your spouse dies, it passes on to your children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, you might want to leave all your assets to one individual. A simple will means that you’re not dividing your life’s possessions among a multitude of beneficiaries. It has nothing to do with the size of your estate.

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