I Need a Will, but I’ll Have Nothing Left After Attorney Fees

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Dear Penny,

My wife and I just had twins and have realized that we need to get a will put in place. We started searching for a lawyer and found that it could cost anywhere from $1,000, up to as much as $5,000, to get a will created.

We won't have anything to leave our little ones! I know there are free and online services, but are they a good option? Are they even legit?

-Desperate Dad

Dear Desperate,

I’m sure you’re losing enough sleep already. It can’t help to be worrying about your children’s financial futures at the same time you’re trying to rock them to sleep for the sixth time in one night.

But you’re right: It’s time to get a will. I mean, have you seen this season of “House of Cards”? Half the plot revolves around the contents of someone’s will. You don’t want your kids to be in that sort of situation, even if you don’t have as many enemies out for your untimely demise as the characters on that show. (And I hope you don’t have that many skeletons in your closet.)

The reason getting a will drawn up can be so expensive is that it takes people power. It takes attorneys who know the local law inside and out and can personalize their services to your needs.

But remember, it’s still an exchange of money for services. And that means you can shop around. Don’t feel pressured to sign up with the first lawyer who gives you a free consultation. Ask direct questions about pricing and what it includes. If you don’t get direct answers, feel free to move on until you feel comfortable.

This process takes time, and I’m sure you already feel like your time is limited. That’s why the online options can seem tempting. I know I’m more likely to fork over cash for a service that requires me to speak to zero human beings, for better or for worse.

The catch with online services (LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, Willing, Nolo … I could go on) is that you typically don’t get the individualized service that an in-person attorney can provide. You save a bundle, but there’s a risk that once you get to the point of needing the will, the document could cause extra headaches for your heirs.

If you choose an online service, be sure to read reviews and ask any questions before you pay up, just like you would with other services like car repairs, home renovations or medical care. Don’t get overwhelmed and forgo your research because you’re tired and panicking about not having a will. Take your time. Make an informed choice.

But do make sure you have a will drawn up sooner rather than later — and then review it frequently to ensure it’s accurate. No matter how young and healthy you are, it’s important to have that safety net in place in the event of the worst-case scenario.

Worried you’re not making the right money moves? Write to Dear Penny at https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/dear-penny/

Lisa Rowan is a personal finance expert and senior writer at The Penny Hoarder, and the voice behind Dear Penny. For more practical money tips, visit www.thepennyhoarder.com.