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C. Relative costs

The costs of preparation of wills or trusts generally depends on the extent of the estate and how complicated the plan of distribution is to be. Simple wills are not usually expensive. Trusts, even simple ones, are usually more expensive, and a will is likely to be needed as well, to cover those assets not included in the trust.

In either case it is poor economy to buy a prepared form or try to write your own. Certain words have come to have special meaning over the years, and you may leave out or include something that causes a result you did not intend. Prepared forms, even when they state they are “good in all states” can fail to meet some state requirements and will almost certainly fail to meet all personal needs and wishes. There are also quirks in property and other laws that can affect how property is distributed. There will be no “savings” if the document is not tailored to meet your particular needs and wishes and it does not accomplish your goals, or if it causes your family extra expense.

Joint accounts cost no more to set up, but too often people do not understand what will happen to an account at their deaths, and the results are not what they intended. The best way to achieve your goals is to see an experienced attorney and let him or her go over all of your property with you, and learn what you want to accomplish with your estate plan. It is not only large estates that need planning; good planning may be even more important to small estates.

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