Will Builder. (legal software) (evaluation)
by Kathy Yakal
Few of us welcome the prospect of writing a will, and often the document remains unwritten until it's too late. While the average person probably has some hazy ideas about what's required, the specifics are a problem, and people are reluctant to pay a lawyer for advice.
Will Builder offers a partial solution. It educates, and it helps you prepare documents that you might otherwise dread preparing, whether for their supposed complexity or simply for their gloomy nature. A 240-page companion book (prepared by two attorneys) explains the processes of creating a will, assigning power of attorney, appointing an executor, and writing a living will. You'll find further explanations in the program itself, along with a rather lengthy index. The user interface looks and feels a tad primitive, devoid of many of the visual niceties we've grown to expect from software. But since the program doesn't have a lot of functional depth, it doesn't require much operational assistance.
Will Builder meets its simple goal and takes you by the hand to walk you through the process of preparing legal documents relating to the handling of your estate after your death. You can also put together documents that give other individuals named by you power to make certain decisions on your behalf about your right to die, should you become seriously incapacitated.
Will Builder will tailor your documents to meet the requirements of your home state's laws and is equipped to address many of the special issues that have become commonplace in late twentieth-century life in this country--personal affairs like single parenthood, step-parenting, and unmarried life partners.
Done simply, this process requires answers to a few personal questions, explains what the law requires in each matter discussed, and then fills in the blanks of predesigned legal documents based on your responses. As with any software of this sort, a disclaimer in the program suggests that you employ legal assistance if you're at all unsure of anything.
If you follow the steps carefully and thoroughly read and understand the reference material provided, your documents should be as legal as those prepared by an attorney, though the software designers cannot take responsibility for any problems that might arise. You are, in essence, choosing to act as your own lawyer by taking on this task using a software package alone.
Costing less than the average 60-minute period in an attorney's office, Will Builder contains more general information than a lawyer could easily dispense in that period of time. For savings like that, many of us would brave the difficulty of completing our own legal paperwork. If you're willing to be your own counsel in one area of your legal affairs or if you want to be better informed when you do consult an attorney, Will Builder's worth a look.