You can easily write your own will, power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and living will using an on-line package. Most of the software packages do a pretty good job for the “I love you wills” giving everything to your spouse, then to your children. The software replicates what most general practice attorneys can provide you. Some of the problems I have seen are improper execution (usually a problem with the witnesses) or failure to include a common clause such as excusing the executor from posting bond. You will never know if you made such a mistake, because a will is not probated until you depart this life.
Rather than spend your money on a software package and a Saturday of your time, you can go to a lawyer who prepares wills as loss leader for $300 to $500. The lawyer is willing to do this work to create a new client. The business model is that you will come back for other legal work. Eventually, the office can probate your estate for a nice fee.
The third alternative is to go to an attorney whose practice centers around estate planning. This attorney will evaluate your entire estate, e.g.; check the title of all your assets, review the beneficiaries of your life insurance policies and retirement plans, account for step children and second marriages. You will have to pay for the time, training, and experience of this attorney which should benefit your heirs in reduced estate taxes and probate costs.
The analogy I use is the maintenance of my automobile. I worked in my Father’s garage in High School and learned to maintain my own car. In the Air Force, I was able to use the lift and tools at the base garage to maintain and repair my car. As the years passed, automobiles became more complicated and my knowledge of mechanics grew rusty, so oil changes and tire rotations were all I could do at home. I found that I could get this work done at a very low price at the big tire shops. However, when it came time to get some other work done on my car the savings of those “inexpensive oil changes” disappeared. I asked around for the recommendation of a good technician and moved my business to “Richard’s Auto Repair”. I spend a little more on routine maintenance, but little problems get solved before they become big problems and I am kept appraised of what costs to expect as my car ages.
The lesson learned. You can write your own will on-line. You should be able to save a few hundred dollars. Beware – the few hundred dollars you save could cost your family thousands.