Software for writing wills tested by Consumer Reports


Personal-finance experts evaluated three different software programs you can use to make a will. Unfortunately they found that they're not great. On the other hand, the programs can be helpful if you need a will.

Attorney Michael Markhoff says while few people relish the task of writing a will, it's critically important to have one.

"You really want to have a will to dispose of the assets the way you want to and also especially when you have children. No matter how much money you have, you must have a will to name a guardian to watch the children," said Markhoff.

Consumer Reports Money Adviser looked at three software programs that claim to help you write a will for less than the cost of hiring a lawyer.

The heavily advertised LegalZoom, along with Rocket Lawyer, allow you to create a will online. The third program tested, Quicken Willmaker Plus, is available as a download or a CD-ROM.

"These products cost from $25 for a flat fee to $119 for a yearly subscription," said Consumer Reports Money Advisor Senior Editor Tobie Stanger. "We bought all three, tested them, and with the help of an outside expert, we judged their ease of use and the quality of the wills they produced."

Consumer Reports found problems with all three programs.

"There was little specific information on state estate tax laws, which can be different from federal laws," said Stanger.

And there are other drawbacks with these do-it-yourself wills. They do not allow users to create a special-needs trust, and they give no specifics on compensating executors.

Still, all three are better than nothing if you have no will. Quicken WillMaker Plus is the best of the three. But unless your needs are very simple, you're better off consulting an attorney.

Consumer Reports says a benefit of the do-it-yourself wills that were evaluated is they can help you get organized and ready to answer an attorney's questions so you won't need to spend as much time with an attorney. And that translates into money saved.

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