Review of Quicken WillMaker Plus 2008
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UPDATED: Jan 28, 2009
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Quicken WillMaker Plus 2008 (QWMP) is a product of Nolo, a publisher known for its do-it-yourself legal books for laypersons. Nolo books are well regarded and have always been helpful for simple legal matters, such as an uncomplicated divorce or filing for bankruptcy.
QWMP is more than a Will-making package. It also helps you plan your estate and create a variety of legal documents, including living trusts, durable powers of attorney for finances, and health care directives. If you read all of the information in the book and on the screen, you will have a good basic understanding of what these documents are and whether you should consider creating any of them along with your Will. Note that some of the information in the book is also found on the screen, e.g. the Users’ Manual and the Legal Manual. This article will concentrate mainly on the creation of a Will.
Before getting into the specifics of QWMP, the book that accompanies the software offers this disclaimer:
An Important Message to Our Readers
This product is not a substitute for legal advice from an attorney. We’ve done our best to give you useful, accurate legal information, but that’s not the same as personalized legal advice. If you want help understanding how the law applies to your particular circumstances, or deciding which estate planning documents are best for you and your family, you should consider seeing a qualified attorney. Estate planning documents are not valid in Louisiana.
The CD-ROM adds:
Any documents you make using the program are yours and it is your responsibility to be sure they reflect your intentions and are binding under the law.
If you choose to use this program to create a Will or other estate planning documents, you should have an attorney look over the finished product before signing, just to be certain that it accomplishes your goals and complies with the laws of your state.
Preparing to Create Your Will –Read the Book!
At first, the length (500 pages) of the accompanying book put me off. I wanted to make my Will without having to read it. That, however, would have been a mistake. The book contains valuable information, that not only helps you use the software to create your Will, but also provides legal and practical information on many estate-planning methods. If you do not or cannot afford to see an attorney, you will have a hard time making the choices you need to make without this information. You don’t need to read the entire book–not all of it applies to your particular circumstances–but browse through it to see what fits and then read those sections carefully.
Both book and software emphasize the need to organize. Make an inventory of your assets before you “write” your Will. Know what you have, where it is, and to whom you want to leave it. Collect contact information for anyone you intend to name in your Will, including your executor, beneficiaries, trustee for children’s trusts, and guardian for children and property. In terms of organization, this program is the same as having an attorney prepare your Will.
Using the Software
Though the Users’ Manual section of the book tells you how to install the software, the product assumes you have a fair amount of computer knowledge. The program is supposed to launch automatically, but it did not do so on my computer, even though it conforms to all of the stated requirements needed to run this program. I had to turn to the troubleshooting section of the book and finally had to reboot my computer to launch the software. Note that QWMP is only made for a PC; there is no version for a Mac.
QWMP tells you that it creates documents that comply with the laws in your state (except, as noted above in the disclaimer, if you live in Louisiana). An update feature keeps current with changes in the law, so you need to update every time you make or edit a legal document on QWMP. You do this by clicking “online” on the toolbar, and then “web update”. If your state laws have changed, you may need to re-create your document, or at least change some of the information, if you have not signed it. If you have signed it, you may need to amend and restate it, which means change it and then sign it once again according to the instructions.
Any time I had a question while creating my Will, help was available. A Guide, which consists of legal and practical information, remains on the right hand side of the screen through each step of the process. Additionally, by clicking Help on the toolbar, you can access QWMP’s Legal Manual or Users’ Manual, both of which are also included in the book. When QWMP cannot help you, the program provides links to outside resources or recommends you see an attorney.
Do I Need to Create Other Estate Planning Documents?
When you begin the program, you’ll be asked if you want to learn more about different estate planning documents. Clicking on “learn more” takes you to a list of “stages of life”, such as “Unmarried, no children,” “Married with young children,” “Middle-aged and comfortable”, and “Elderly or Sick”. You can choose more than one, or skip this section entirely. Since I am middle-aged with two teenagers, none of the stages seemed to fit exactly, so I picked both “Married with young children” and “Middle-aged and comfortable”. The program then provided me with a list of estate planning documents to consider. These included a Will (to name a guardian for my kids), a Revocable Living Trust, an AB Trust, a Back-Up Will, a Health Care Directive and a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. The Guide provides information on each form plus links to the Legal Manual.
I decided just to make a Will, since all the rest seemed overwhelming to tackle without a lawyer. Even after reading the entire book, all of these estate-planning decisions are daunting if you have more than a simple estate.
Making a Will
Creating your Will with QWMP is actually a simple, straightforward process. Preparing a Will quickly and accurately has two basic components. One is a checklist of what you’ll need to include and consider, the other is an interview. The checklist tells you what subjects the interview questions will cover. These include:
- You and your residence;
- Your marital status and your spouse’s contact information;
- The names and birth dates of your children;
- The names and birth dates of your grandchildren;
- The name of a personal guardian for your children;
- Your main bequest of property and the recipient;
- Any specific bequests;
- The name of a manager for property left to minors;
- Debts to be forgiven;
- Debts and taxes to be paid,
- Your choice of an executor.
The interview questions are clear, but also full explanations are given in the Guide next to them. The questions should be answered correctly and completely. If you know the property you want to leave and the beneficiaries, and can name the person you want to be your children’s guardian, the person you want to manage any assets or property you leave to your children and the person you want to be the executor of your estate, the questions are easy to answer.. These are the same questions you would have to answer, and the same choices you would have to make if you had an attorney prepare your Will.
QWMP makes it easy to preview the Will, and then go back and edit before you print it out. The only problem with making changes is the domino effect: one change can lead to changes in other sections of the Will, forcing you to go back and re-answer some of the interview questions.
Trust, but Verify!
All things considered, even though it takes a fair amount of time to read the information you need to make your choices, and it took a while to get it going on my computer, QWMP is easy to use and offers good assistance, both legally and practically. Although I have confidence that the Will I created expresses my wishes clearly and, with its on-line legal updates, that it is based on current laws in my state, I still want a lawyer to look at it to be absolutely certain.
At $49.99, plus tax, for the package, QWMP offers good value, especially if more than one member of your household uses it to create legal documents. If you have a complicated estate, for example if you own real estate in other states or want to protect your assets from going through probate, and need further estate planning methods, I would not advise using QWMP to make your Will or other documents without first consulting an attorney. Interestingly, some attorneys now use this program to create legal documents for their clients.