WillMaker. (legal document software) (evaluation)
by Charles Idol
Nobody enjoys making a will and keeping it current, but everybody knows that the chore must be done for the sake of loved ones. One way to do it is to visit a lawyer. That places some demands on your time and checkbook. A more convenient and inexpensive method is provided in WillMaker 4.0.
WillMaker 4.0 comes from Nolo Press, a company well known for its authoritative books on legal matters for lay people. The manual states that in the past 50 years the legal profession has scored a public relations coup by convincing many people that writing a will without a lawyer is like doing your own brain surgery. This, the authors insist, is nonsense. Their program produces a will which you can understand, in clear language without jargon such as "I hereby give, bequeath, and devise." And it's a will that will stand up in court.
After a simple installation process, WillMaker takes you through a series of questions regarding the allocation of your estate. When you type an answer, a window shows you how your answer will appear in your will and seeks your approval.
Let's say you are married and wish to leave everything to your spouse and your children. A will meeting these conditions can be completed in a very few minutes. The program asks for your name, your social security number, your state and county of residence, and the names of your children. The program prompts you for the name of a contingency custodian for any beneficiaries who are minors, and suggestions for alternate forms of custodianship are given.
If you will is more complicated and you have specific bequests, the program makes provision for those. It also cautions you about what you cannot do in a will with provisional bequests. For example, you cannot leave something to Uncle Bill provided that he quits smoking. Such a bequest would probably be set aside by a probate court.
When you have finished the sequence of screens, you may review the finished document, make alterations to your answers if you wish, and print the will, which makes provision for the signatures of three witnesses, plus their initials, on each page. The printout also produces a "self-proving" affidavit. Nolo urges you to complete this document, which must have the notarized signatures of yourself and your witnesses. In most states its existence will make it unnecessary for your witnesses to appear in probate court.
Documents produced by WillMaker are state specific, taking into account variations in state laws. The manual asserts that the documents are valid in all states except Louisiana, where laws are based upon the French legal system. The manual contains far more information than just instructions for the use of the program. It points out the limitations of a will, provides information about the probate process, and discusses action you may wish to take, outside your will, to avoid probate. It also discusses situations which a simple will cannot cover and suggests steps you may wish to take to avoid estate taxes if your estate is substantial. It even suggests that there are circumstances under which you may wish to consult a lawyer.
WillMaker 4.0 is an excellent program and deserves your consideration for use in matters of estate. Ask yourself these questions: Is your will up to date? Are you sure? WillMaker 4.0 offers some peace of mind.