Dear Liz: We want to have an estate plan that doesn’t cost a ton of money. We’re both in our early 40s and have no children. I’d label us middle class, with not much money left over after monthly bills. Lawyers want too much money to “help” us. Isn’t there a better solution?
Answer: If your estate situation is truly simple, you can draw up the documents you need with Quicken WillMaker software, which is available from the self-help legal publisher Nolo at www.nolo.com. The software costs about $50 and guides you through the process of creating wills and durable powers of attorney (which you need to name someone to make financial and health decisions for you should you become incapacitated).
Nolo also has an online will form, plus a number of books that can help you, including “Plan Your Estate” and “The Busy Family’s Guide to Estate Planning.”
The do-it-yourself approach can work when your situation is straightforward, but you should consider consulting an attorney if your estate ever gets big enough to worry about estate taxes or if complications (such as children or contentious relatives) become a factor.