151 of 155 people found the following review helpful
This program contains some excellent resources for estate and end-of-life planning and could save you considerable money in legal costs. I have some experience in this field from the professional end, and I know that simple wills can be a lucrative proposition for attorneys. Quite often, it's a simple matter of plugging in the names of the beneficiaries and printing them off. No reason to pay an attorney to do this if you can do it yourself. (That said, if your situation is complicated, you need to hire the professional. Better that you spend the money now than leave your grieving family to work it out after you die.)
I have Windows Vista, and it installed painlessly. I had no trouble with launch, answered its questions to see what documents it recommended for me and drew up at first a simple will--leaving everything to my husband or, if he predeceases me, my son; dividing my properly unevenly among my family if my son also does not survive me. The only hassle here is in the uneven division. It says it does the math for you, but that's not exactly true--it totals it, yes, but you still need to be able to work out that so-and-so gets 1/9th while somebody else gets 1/6th. It's probably a whole lot easier if you divide it evenly, but there are some in my family who need more and some in my family who deserve more. Fortunately, I can still manage my basic math. The will it produced in this case was just fine. Too, the program offers good information in its sidebars and provides easy access to usage guides online. (It even prompted me to name a guardian for my dog--a nice touch.)
When I was finished, it asked me if I would like to produce the same will for my husband--a nice feature. I didn't have to go through the process a second time.
After that, I went back to make things more complicated by leaving specific bequests--handy if you want your Aunt Sally's china to pass to cousin Gertrude. It performed well here, too.
Since I was testing this product for Vine, I also poked at some of the other documents provided. It's really comprehensive, from direction for somebody taking care of your elderly relatives to authorization for somebody to take your child out of the country, from instructions for your housesitter to a "notice to put name on do not call list", there's a whole suite of useful documents in here, all very thoroughly explained and simple to use and print off. Moreover, with internet connection, it promises to offer any legal updates necessary to keep me up to date legally through the year.
Along with this package comes a free copy of Your Little Legal Companion: Helpful Advice for Life's Big Events from NOLO. I have nothing but respect for NOLO, but their definition of "legal" is pretty loose here. There's some good legal advice, to be sure, but at a random page opening (p. 151), I see the following tips (for travel): (1) contact your embassy in case of trouble; (2) bring toilet paper; (3) send postcards; (4) be careful with the food and bring Pepto Bismal; (5) get last minute information on U.S. international travel advisory and (6) don't worry that your dog will hold a grudge against you for being gone. This may all be good advice, but not much of it is legal. The book is full of this kind of thing. It's an entertaining read, but pretty light on law.
It also included a free download of Nolo's Encyclopedia of Everyday Law: Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Legal Questions. Updated in 2008 (at least, the copy I downloaded), this book does give a pretty comprehensive overview of the law and some good, common sense suggestions for getting by in legally challenging environments: buying or selling a house; getting along with your neighbors, landlord or tenants; operating effectively when working for yourself or others; filing patents, etc. This book is a good added value, even if it is a digital copy, and it manages to remain highly readable even in discussing the law.
Overall, I think this package is a very good value and likely to be quite useful to individuals who want to draw up some of their own legal documents. You'll still need to follow some formalities on your own (for instance, my state requires two witnesses and a notary public for many legal documents), but you may save considerable money over attorneys fees, and if your needs are simple that's worth it in itself. The additional books are a nice touch, even if one of them is pretty lightweight legally.
63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
With this easy-to-use software, you can have a simple will that is valid in your state all printed up and ready to be witnessed within an hour or two. The software is designed primarily for individuals who want to divide up their property by leaving specific bequests to named persons, or even pets. It can be used for a pour-over will, anticipates a "common disaster" in which both spouses die at the same time, and allows you to designate executors. However, it cannot prepare conditional bequests, wills with provisions for special needs persons, or other types of wills that require complicated legal language. Also, the estate planning documents are NOT valid in Louisiana or in the Territories of the U.S. (The FAQs that explain the uses and limits of the software are found in the "Wrap Up" section at the end, and are also found via a shortcut that is installed on Startmenu/ Programs/ QuickenWillmakerPlus.)
There is a very good, integrated "Legal Guide" that clearly explains how to properly use the software. The Legal Guide briefly discusses reasons for making a will, why you should want to avoid probate, the availability of various probate-avoidance tactics such as creating a living trust or naming beneficiaries for your bank accounts, and other estate planning topics. The software includes sample documents for durable powers of attorney, instructions for caregivers, and similar basic estate-planning documents.
If you are fortunate enough to live in one of the minority of states (including California) that recognizes hand-written (holographic) wills, you might consider using this software to prepare a will that you can copy out in your own handwriting and sign. If you make a holographic will, it will not require witnesses--but you should check your own state's requirements before you decide to go this route. Information about states' requirements is available online if you search for "legal holographic will".
The internal navigation is a bit annoying, because you must complete the interview by answering questions in the order that they are asked, before you are allowed to skip around within the various sections. (You can get around this by making a draft will and saving it, because you are allowed to make more than one will, and you can make all the changes you like in a completed will.)
The license grants you permission to use the software for yourself and your immediate family, but not for commercial purposes. The software is fast and easy to install, and online updates are available. Product support ends on December 31, 2011. The CDROM installation disc is boxed with YOUR LITTLE LEGAL COMPANION, a pocket-sized paperback that sets out "10 things you should know" about 50 different "big life events" (e.g., Quitting Your Job, Starting a Business, Getting Sued, Having a Child, Surviving a Natural Disaster, Traffic Tickets, Going on Your Dream Trip). Although the book is amusing and helpful in places, it is definitely designed to be a freebie.
For the 2011 edition, registration of the software provides a couple of valuable bonuses. First, you can create a living trust for free, using Nolo's Online Living Trust. (I didn't test this right away, but several weeks later, I clicked on "Free Nolo's Online Living Trust" on Startmenu/Programs, registered with Nolo, and was taken directly into the online-trust-creation software. It has questions and explanations similar to those you see in the Willmaker software, for creating either a separate or a shared living trust. See the end of this review for a more detailed description of my experience accessing the online living trust feature.) Second, you can download a free Adobe reader copy of Nolo's Encyclopedia of Everyday Law: Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Legal Questions by clicking on a link in an email sent as an acknowledgment of your registration.
All in all, this is a pretty good package, if you haven't already made your will.
**ETA 11/30/10: Notes on accessing Free Online Living Trust feature.
At least one other reviewer states that Nolo charges for the advertised living trust document. However, the Free Nolo's Online Living Trust feature worked perfectly with my copy of Quicken Willmaker 2011, and I was never presented with any screen that requested an additional payment. You do have to create the living trust online--you are not given a free download of the Nolo Living Trust software. Also, you are apparently allowed to create only one free living trust with the package.
When I first installed Quicken Willmaker 2011, I clicked on "Free Nolo's Online Living Trust" in the "Quicken Willmaker 2011" group on the Startmenu, and went only as far as the Nolo registration page. Several weeks later, I clicked on the same link, which took me to the same registration page. There, I created a new account with Nolo, and was taken straight into the Nolo Online Living Trust software. At that time, I did not complete the online living trust.
The next day, I clicked on the same Startmenu link. After logging in, I was presented with a page that said that an online living trust had been "purchased" on a specific date (in my case, the day before). There was an option to "edit", which I clicked, and this took me into the online software so that I could complete the online living trust that had been started. When I got to the end, I downloaded the document. The download is a .pdf document with the trust document and additional detailed instructions for creating and recording all of the documents that are required to establish the living trust. Printing worked fine.
A few minutes later, I clicked the link again, logged in again. This time the page said that I had downloaded the online living trust, but the page still had an "edit" button. When I clicked on that, the software asked whether I had signed and dated my living trust as yet. When I answered "no", the software allowed me to access the online document to make changes. It would not allow me to change the names without contacting Nolo tech support, as a security feature.
If clicking on the icon for the free Nolo online living trust does not work for you, then you might try running webupdate and/or reinstalling the software. If that fails, you should contact Nolo support (see the FAQ in the StartMenu group for the address), because the free online living trust is definitely an included feature.
94 of 103 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2010
After I received my software, I looked through the package, downloaded the encyclopedia, took a look at the software & started a will. So far, so good. In process of starting the will it suggested that if I was intending on making a living trust that I do the trust first. Fine. When I did the install originally it placed a "Free Nolo Online Trust" icon on my desktop, so I clicked that, then had to register, etc. But I kept getting a screen where it wanted to charge me the retail price for the "free trust". I tried a variety of things to rectify the problem, including sending an email to them. I didn't get a response, so I used their online chat. They had to enter my free registration directly from their end to get it to work. So if you have the same problem, that's what you'll have to do. It works fine now. Included with the software is a little book "Your Little Legal Companion". I wasn't too impressed with it. It seemed more like an attempt at humor rather than a serious guide to help you through legal problems. I haven't gotten far enough into the process to rate it any further, but I'll adjust my rating as things develop.
Ok, it's been a long time since I bought this program, but I've made my will & can now give a worthwhile review. The part where you actually make the will is surprisingly easy and straightforward. But, and this is not any fault of the publisher, you need to expect to do an enormous amount of background reading on each topic, topics which are available for you at each step of the process in the software. Actually, that is perfectly reasonable since you don't have an attorney sitting across a table from you guiding you and understanding your background. You need to educate yourself on the pertinent laws and ramifications of the choices available to you before you make your will. So, yes, the amount of reading to complete the will correctly is imposing but well worth the effort. I feel well-educated now and want to let everyone know that I heartily endorse this product.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
My husband and I eagerly awaited the release of Quicken Willmaker Plus 2011 after reading in the NYTimes that this program rated among the "most substantial" in estate planning software. And I saw within minutes why: the program not only takes the user step-by-step through all the options, but it provides help in understanding and choosing them. Although many of the options allow you to go beyond the basics (for example, designating specific items/sums to people or organizations, forgiving specific debts,and naming multiple executors), this program will not substitute for an estate attorney for solid advice in how to protect a large, complex estate. Still, for most people, this program is beyond good enough; you can even designate a pet guardian. The only thing I couldn't figure out how to do is name future grandchildren as beneficiaries except by typing in "Living Grandchildren" as though it were a name; because I wasn't sure what kind of issues that might create, I decided to leave it out in the end. I also had no idea how, or even why, I had to select how estate taxes will be paid. And therein lies the major problem with using this (or any other estate planning software): you need to educate yourself on the implications of your choices prior to actually creating and signing a will.
In addition to creating a traditional will, the program takes you through the steps of creating a health care directive, naming financial powers of attorney (both limited and durable), stating final arrangements, and providing executor documents for a thorough wrap-up of your estate. You can even print out a temporary guardianship of a minor for those taking care of your children while you are out of town. The program uses 2010/11 information relevant to the state of your primary residence as well as to federal law.
Installation and registration on a Windows 7 machine took less than a minute. (The specs say it works with XP/Vista/7, with a minimum of 512 MB of memory and a Pentium 400 MHz processor.) The free e-book can be acquired through clicking on the link provided in your registration confirmation email. Unfortunately, as of this writing, there doesn't seem to be a Mac edition of this software, which is a huge oversight given the growing number of Mac users.
For those with simple enough estates, this software saves the expense of having an attorney drawing up a will. Considering that wills have been written on cocktail napkins and on death bed, a will generated from this software should hold up in any court, provided that it is properly witnessed and fully completed.
-- Debbie Lee Wesselmann
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
WillMalker Plus is a tremendous bargain. Of course, it takes the user through the process of making a will, but it does much more, too. Vital documents you'd think of, such as health care directives, executor documents and instructions, etc., are in here. In addition, there are things you might not think of, such as pet care agreements, bills of sale, notices to terminate joint credit card accounts, etc. It really is a very comprehensive package.
The will and estate planning documents are, of course, the heart of the package. The program leads you fairly painlessly through the process by conducting what amount to interviews with you. It asks for various pieces of information about your assets and your intentions for their disposal, then it cranks out the legal documents. I can't say it's fun to use, but it certainly is clear cut and quite quick.
Now, it's important to use some common sense with this do-it-yourself approach to legal matters. I'm not an attorney, so I can't make any expert judgements. However, it seems to me that this program might well be all you need if you have a reasonably straight-forward financial life. But if you have a complicated family situation, involved business arrangements, or extensive investments or property holdings, you'd probably be better served by going to an attorney. After all, the more that's at stake, the more important it is to be sure you're not making an error. After all, your demise will be hard enough on your family; you don't want to entangle them in legal or financial hassles after you're gone.
Having said that, though, I'd guess that this software package is all that the large majority of people would need. And it's definitely friendly enough that the average person could use it well.
There are a couple of bonuses included with the software. One is a copy of a short, breezily-written book called "Your Little Legal Companion: Helpful Advice for Life's Big Events from NOLO." I liked it, but I wouldn't call it a legal guide at all. It's more of a little common sense guidebook that might be useful to a recent high school or college graduate. In addition, there's a free download of the e-book version of the Nolo Press "Encyclopedia of Everyday Law: Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Legal Questions." This is a very useful common sense guide to things like buying and selling property, landlord/tenant relationships, avoiding hassles with neighbors, and a number of other common life situations.
My bottom line is that this software package is an excellent resource that will meet the needs of most people, and it's an outstanding value for the money. It most certainly is NOT a substitute for professional legal help, but it's a good way to avoid the expense of that legal help when you really don't need it.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Our Wills were due to be updated. We didn't have many new issues to address but needed to renew it just to make certain it aligned with our current thinking and present values. My wife had suggested we do this and I was not looking forward to sitting through the whole process again.
I saw this and decided it might be a good way to get this task taken care of. Seeing that it was from Quicken, I knew it would be easy to install and easy to complete.
Sure enough, we sat down one evening with our old wills in hand and set off answering the questions, filling in our preferences, and before very long, we had updated our wills and completed this task. It was far less difficult than I recall from last time, and the final results are very thorough and professional. The few questions we had about using the software were answered well in the Help.
The extra forms that come along with the package are also useful. It was nice to have a bill of sale for some of the more substantial things we sold at the yard sale.
Don't let the laws of your state decide what to do with your belongings and savings. Take control of your choices and make sure that you have something concrete that defines in legal terms what you want to happen after you "move on". The peace of mind that comes from knowing your final wishes will be followed is well worth the price and time to do this right. And you will save money (and time) over doing this work with a lawyer...
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
I have Nolo products I bought in the past and I have used Quicken since their first version (I got it from the original owners of the company in person). Nolo makes (made) some valuable applications but they tend to look like something you would find in MSDOS 3.0. Quicken, on the other hand has a very slick and easy to understand user interface.
WillMaker Plus is very much a Nolo product. Although it contains the basic forms you buy it for, the user interface is so basic it looks like something you would find on PC's from the 1980's. The willmaking app (the part that most people buy this for) consists of 7 questions. Seriously, that's it. You are allowed to enter only what the software will let you enter and there are some really basic non-interactive guidelines that are at the same time too basic and also too confusing.
I wrote my own will in about 10 minutes, but the software didn't permit me to include ANY specific details for someone to know what my "final intentions" are. I can't imagine anyone having such a basic lifestyle as to just say "give it all to so-and-so". I think anyone could just hand-write that sort of thing on a piece of paper and hand it to their next of kin. I expected the software to be more like TurboTax in that it would interview me about what the provisions of my mortgage are, what and where my investments are, what and where my life insurance policies are, what I owe and how to pay that off, what special provisions I may have for friends who are not in my will but who I may want to leave certain things that they've admired to. But no. None of the above. Just 7 questions and a print-out of something that to me really has no practical value.
I think Quicken is doing themselves a disservice to put their name on this product. It's not worth the 35 bucks and especially not worth the "list price" of 70. There are hundreds of websites you can go to and download a simple will form that will be just as useful to you as WillMaker Plus. The only reason I'm giving it 2 stars is that it does give you the convenience of having some basic forms all on one disk, a bit of a timesaver.
By the way, if you buy this toward the end of 2011, note that the "free updates" are only good through the end of December.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2011
This program was relatively inexpensive to buy, and installed pretty quickly. Filling in your information takes some time but the program does automatically fill in repeat information for you. The only thing it could improve on is give a brief tutorial or information on the most common forms used or what you should include besides a will. It provides great information if you know what your looking for, but a little difficult at first for a beginner who knows nothing about wills other then you need to have one! Great product overall.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This is the third version of Quicken Willmaker Plus I have used. I liked the 2009 version. Unfortunately, starting with the 2010 version, Nolo, the publisher of self-help legal books that produces this software, took away the living trust feature, which was a terrible move. (Also, you're supposed to upgrade to a new version *every year*. If you don't, the software won't update itself after the end of the version year -- i.e., Dec. 31, 2011 for the 2011 version -- which can cause problems as states [such as New York] do update their probate and other estate-related laws.)
This 2011 version does not come with the living trust feature, either, but does provide you with a link upon installation to access Nolo's online living trust product for free. This was probably in response to the uproar from their loyal customer base last year. While this does mitigate the problem somewhat -- living trusts are an essential part of estate planning for most people and must be included in an estate toolkit -- it means none of the information you enter in Willmaker Plus 2011, such as all the contact names and addresses and birthdays and phone numbers, carries over to the living trust part, essentially making you have to enter all that information again.
Other than that, both the Willmaker itself and the online living trust software are solid estate planning products. Of course, tools like this are best for simple situations. How simple? For example, in my case I'd like to attach a condition to my will that the people I'd like to be the personal custodians for my kids only become custodians if they relocate to my city. It turns out I cannot do this in Willmaker. What I have to do is go through the standard Q&A process of Willmaker, export the draft to Word, and then add the condition in Word myself. This part is easy; the hard -- real hard -- part is I now need to pore over my state's will law to make sure my language is kosher. I already know the condition itself is fine; I just have to make sure the way I write it -- since Willmaker didnt' write it for me -- will pass on probate.
For most families without complicated familial situations -- such as history of multiple divorces and remarriages or estranged children -- Willmaker Plus 2011 will be good for making wills, living wills (aka healthcare directives), powers of attorney, etc. You can also write promissory notes and some other simple legal documents beyond wills.
Another thing I'm disappointed with Nolo and this version -- again I think Nolo is using the product as a cash cow rather than to really help its customers -- is it's little changed from the 2009 version, or even the earlier version I had used before. The same typos (yes, TYPOS!) remain, and the same interface remains. It seems every year they just change the update-expiration date of the program and the splash screen, and then sell it as a new version. (And the price seems to have been going up, even though now it doesn't come with living trusts built-in.) I find this practice unethical.
Most likely this will be the last version of Willmaker I'll use. I wasn't going to use the 2011 version, but got a chance to try it for free, hence I used it and this review. There're books out there that show you step-by-step how to make wills and living trusts, books published by Nolo and by big-name publishers. But in the end, I think next time I modify my will or living trust, I'm going to see an estate lawyer -- there are a few reasonable-cost ones in my community.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I've used WillMaker software a number of times over the years, and this edition is not only the most current; it is easy to use. Preparing your will doesn't have to be an ordeal. Just sit down and start answering questions. You will be told when to skip items and what kinds of information you will need, and you can always come back later to edit the material. It's not just for wills. You can prepare 38 useful legal documents and revocations such as four kinds of promissory notes, childcare or caregiver instructions, powers of attorney, joint credit card cancellation notifications (essential if divorcing), and others. A section of documents for executors is also included.
When I first installed WillMaker 2011, I was prompted to register the product (required to qualify for special updates later on as well as some extra online freebies), then was taken to an update screen to be sure the software is up-to-the-minute accurate. During my installation, I was informed that New York's laws had recently changed and encouraged to update the product often to be sure any changes in my state are reflected in the documents. Registered users of WillMaker 2011 will be able to update the program free for two full years after its expiration at the end of 2011.
The user interface is intuitive, with the interview information on the left and explanatory details on the right. In addition, there are buttons for a user manual and legal documentation. At least in the portions where I clicked on them, these do not appear to be context-sensitive, but the information is presented in a straightforward, easy-to-follow way.
Of the forty different legal documents you can prepare with WillMaker, only two had the "Create Document" button greyed out: requests for birth and death certificates. The information on the right explains why these forms are not available through WillMaker and points the user to the website where requests can be made.
Now, I have to say that I don't have much of anything to leave my few heirs, so I got my will and advanced directive completed in about 15 minutes. From past experience with WillMaker, however, I know that it can handle a fair amount of situational complexity. Even if an attorney must be consulted later, using this software to gather data and organize it in one place is a good idea. You can prepare documents for each family member, and WillMaker will keep them all in once place.
In short: WillMaker 2011 is a good value and a piece of cake.