334 of 346 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2005
Hello, I am the Trust and Wills attorney that worked with Suze Orman to create the Suze Orman Will and Trust kit. I appreciate the opportunity to respond to a user whom posted concerns here.
* He expressed concern that there is a lack of clarity in a section of the will that could cause confusion. The sentence in question is:
"I nominate Mary Smith to act as my executor. If Mary Smith cannot serve then John Smith is to serve as the executor of my will."
The questions is whether the second sentence requires the insertion of a comma to avoid any confusion. This section, as written, is clear and correct. There is no confusion about who is being named as executor. And that is the guiding principle for the courts; is the intention of the person making the will clear to the reader. As written this program I believe you the reader can see that it is absolutely clear.
The poster also pointed out a grammar error in an instruction letter. We thanked the fellow for pointing out that there is a change of tense in the letter. This has been corrected and recently posted in a free update that is included with the program. But rest assured the letter's intent was clear even with the tense issue; I have complete confidence in the content of the letter. The cover letter provided in the program is a courtesy letter, much like a fax cover sheet and has no legal significance. To view the letter please go to: [...]
* The same person expressed concern in his original post to the help website, about the use of what he called "boiler plate" language and the inability to delete text from the will document. The specific concerns were two passages dealing with children and minors. The specific wording and inability for users to alter the text was a very deliberate decision I encouraged Suze to make. After much research and consultation, I decided the language with respect to children and minors is absolutely necessary to protect the users of this program. After reviewing countless wills people created using other programs I saw so many errors and omissions due to the changes and additions made by the program users. By making changes, inconsistencies and errors were written into the documents. Those mistakes were enough to make the will invalid. To protect users of Suze's program, and to ensure that the final will that is created would be judged valid, we created a program where the user made selections and answered certain questions that then automatically inserted the correct legal language in their will.
That is why when you select "no children" in the user profile, your document will nonetheless include the sentence: "I intentionally leave nothing to anyone claiming to be child of mine regardless of the validity of their claim." Without such a sentence, if you had a child you did not know about, then that child would be able to take a large part, or even all of your estate upon your death. Sound far-fetched? Well, there have indeed been many famous cases where unknown children have surfaced and made successful claims on estates. I realize this will not pertain to most users, but Suze's focus was to create a program that gives everyone the best legal protection; so that is why it is included.
* There was also concern about the inclusion of a phrase addressing the right for the executor to retain the inheritance of a young person in a custodianship UTMA account. This phrase can save an estate a great deal of time and money. Because of this phrase, the executor will not need to create a guardianship for the minor in the courts which can easily cost $5,000. The provision allows the executor to protect a young person beyond age 18, in some states covering up to age 25. Even if you don't name a minor child as a beneficiary, this phrase can be important. If one of your beneficiaries dies before you, or with you, that person's child or children will often become the beneficiary as a result of the death. Because of this, I encouraged Suze to include the phrase in the program. Again, our goal is to protect everyone from as many possible scenarios based on our extensive real life experience.
I thank you for your concern. Please know that I worked with Suze for months creating and vetting this program to make sure it would truly deliver a valid will to all users. The issues you raise were indeed discussed during the development of this program. The wording we chose was very intentional to ensure that all users had the utmost protections, and that there was no possibility that any user would inadvertently make a change that could render the document invalid.
312 of 327 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2008
This software installed easily on my MacBookPro with OS v10.4.11. Then the application started and explained that ALL the information, including social security numbers, dates of birth, etc., etc. are stored somewhere online. You have the option of exempting certain information but you then have to re-enter it each time. As with any end-of-life planning, there is highly detailed personal information about financials, property, etc. that I am completely uncomfortable about storing in the ethers regardless of assurances of complete security. I was hoping this was a piece of software fully contained on the laptop and used the internet solely to update forms and push changes to the laptop. Further, the fact that all this personal data is stored somewhere online is not explained anywhere on the outside of the box or on any of the paper inside. Had I been aware, I would not have made this purchase. Supposedly there is a way to replicate the online stuff to the laptop but even this is only a disconnected version of what is already online. Not at all happy.
117 of 121 people found the following review helpful
It is more fun to eat live snails than to sit down and do trusts and wills, not to mention the dreaded Advanced Directive.
Everyone puts off this very necessary chore because they know that going to an attorney is expensive and that all this is necessary because of death, a subject we avoid when possible.
Now there are many software programs that promise to make it possible for many people to do this work at home and without the expense of an attorney. Be aware, though, that attorneys say that people trying to do it themselves can make expensive mistakes and that the fee for professional services is money well spent.
I suspect that many people with uncomplicated estates can probably do ok with a software program, but that complicated estates really need an attorney. The question of what is fairly simple and what is complicated can only be answered by the individual.
Even if you have doubts about doing it yourself, it makes sense to get a program and do it anyway. You will know the kind of questions you have to answer and generally get an idea of the process. Then you can go to an attorney with some backround that will make the process easier, maybe saving an hour or three of expensive attorney time.
The Orman program is heavily advertised and Suze herself is kind of a celebrity. It is also reasonably priced and the advertisements seemed realistic. I went with Suze and successfully filled everything out, got the appropriate forms witnessed and notarized and copies sent to relatives, doctors and hospitals. Felt a lot better afterward as I am sure most people do.
A will is like having a colonoscopy. Everyone knows they should have one, but put it off as long as possible. I was forced into action because I was facing a serious time in the hospital and thought that if I left feet first, that my wife and kids would have a terrible time dealing with stuff a will would make easier. All turned out well, but I am really glad I did the paperwork and do not have to think about it unless things change.
The advanced directive, in case some people don't know, is a legal document that allows a hospital to cut off life support when you are brain dead in case your spouse is not available to give the word. This is not an uncommon occurrence as you could both be dead or incapacitated in a crash, for example. You can be free to go without interference from politicians who think they can raise the dead or from relatives who can't make the decision. Doctors know when it is time.
The Orman program is probably about as simple as it can be, but it deals with legalities, life and death, money and real estate and other property. That is all hard stuff. Attorneys will likely charge close to $2000 to do this because it takes hours of work. So, it is not an easy even for professionals. I managed to complete everything in about five hours. Those that have used tax software will find the process familiar.
Suze gives you stuff to read and also does a voice-over in some cases. Other experts also chime in now and then. I thought this was going to be annoying, but actually found it to be useful. I do suggest earphones or decent speakers if you are forced to operate in a noisy environment.
In California, at least, some of the forms need to be witnessed and notarized. The witnesses cannot be beneficiaries, so you have to get two strangers to sign some ominous documents for someone they do not know. I was lucky to find a couple in the hair salon next door to the notary. This is not the fault of Orman, but still you have to line people up. You might call the notary for advice. Stupid requirement.
There are multiple forms, several pages each. You need to make copies for relatives, your doctor and hospitals. That adds up to a lot of copies and a lot of paper that needs to be accurately collated. I suggest you get a stapler and a bunch of manila mailers that are addressed.
You also need cover letters. For example, the copy of the advanced directive that goes to your doctors should have a cover letter explaining that you are sending the directive so it will be in their files in case the need should arise to use it some day.
I also emailed my relatives and told them their will and directive copies were coming and what my general expectations were. I guess it is more traditional to keep it a secret until the end. Depends, I suppose.
Oh, and one of the forms is a narrative that details the disposition of your property. For example, you could say that aunt Mary gets your collection of pornographic statues, Uncle Bill gets the tv and so on.
So, it took me all day to complete the program, get witnesses and notary, collate and mail everything. That is about as fast as possible I think. Afterward, I felt relieved and accomplished. I had more than one drink in celebration.
There is nothing as nice as getting nagging odious tasks done. And the colonoscopy saved my life, so there.
I gave Suze five stars. I have not compared her program to any of the others. The legal requirements are the same and I figure Orman is in a position to hire competent legal and technical people. There is no way to know if everything will go smoothly for my heirs. One could hire an attorney to look it over and that shouldn't take too long.
The program does a good job of guiding you through a complex procedure. You still have to make decisions, of course, but the fact that this all went smoothly and everything printed was very impressive. This was done on a Mac, which is good since programs like this are usually ported to Windows first. Now that Macs also run Windows makes it even more likely to work for you on any computer.
I am impressed with this program and recommend it. I doubt that there is any way to make a will/trust/directive program any easier and I trust that the people behind it are competent. So, five stars.
109 of 114 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2003
This is a great system, and has all the necessary paperwork to get you started. You might want to check out QVC.com, they have this same package plus a storage component, and other QVC exclusives, it is well worth the extra [$$$]. it helps you store everything in one place. Remeber Suze designed this system for QVC, you will get much more bang for your buck there.
207 of 223 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2006
The trust(s) created by this program use California law, no matter what state you live in. A joint trust created with this program says that all property transferred to the trust will be community property. A joint trust created by this program also waives each spouse's rights under California Family Code section 2640. Don't know what community property is, or what section 2640 says? Too bad.
Before printing any documents, the program makes you agree to a disclaimer that says you should consult an attorney. Unfortunately, if you're not in CA, it may be difficult to find an attorney who wants to give you a legal opinion about CA law.
The trust included does absolutely no estate tax planning. It's good that the authors are up-front about this, but it would be helpful if the materials on the outside of the box explained that if you've got more than $1 million in property, the authors think you should avoid using their program and see an attorney instead.
Ultimately, to generate an estate plan using this software, you're going to have to click over and over again to "AGREE" to a disclaimer that tells you these documents should be reviewed by an attorney before they're actually used; that the authors are not providing legal advice; that the authors accept no responsibility for your actions. Would you hire an attorney who gave you documents while asking you to sign a document agreeing not to sue them if the document turned out to be useless, or worse?
The trust created by the program can be modified entirely after the death of the first spouse - so there is no protection in place to preserve assets for the joint children if the surviving spouse remarries or needs Medicaid-funded nursing home care.
The documents provided to change beneficiaries for IRA and 401(k) plans have no discussion of - and make no provision for - planning for "stretch" IRA distributions, and in fact make "stretch" planning impossible, which might potentially mean losing out on tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars due to the missed stretch opportunity.
Even though the attorney who co-wrote the software is licensed in California - and California is the forum state mentioned in the choice of law clause - the estate plan makes no provisions for California property tax planning for beneficiaries who may inherit real property. If you've lived in California, you'll appreciate the importance of preserving your Proposition 13 property tax assessed value for your children, and their children .. if your estate plan was drafted with that end in mind. There may be similar issues for people who live in other states - I've got no idea if there are or not, and you probably don't either, unless you find someone who knows your local law.
The program doesn't cost much money and has some educational value. So it's not a total waste. The plan and the documents it produces are a long way away from what a good estate planning attorney can produce - but what's really missing here is an overall understanding of the family's assets, values, risks, and opportunities .. together with a comprehensive plan to address those circumstances.
I'm an estate planning attorney in CA - but I don't really think of a software package that costs less than a large pizza as a meaningful competitor, especially after trying it out to see what it produces. I wouldn't mind at all if potential clients of mine used the software to play around at home to get comfortable with some of the terminology and issues that are part of putting together a real estate plan - but there's no way I'd recommend this to someone I cared about as a good way to create an estate plan that they actually planned to sign and use.
I'm still shocked by the decision to make trusts for all states subject to California law - that's the kind of advice that can only be given responsibly by someone who understands California law, the law of your state, and your personal circumstances. There are cases where I might choose to have a client's trust be governed by the law of another state - but those cases are relatively rare, and I can articulate clear, concrete reasons to do so. A blanket choice that everyone, everywhere, should use California law strikes me as inappropriate.
176 of 190 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2006
How sad when a group of people who do not know how to read the directions or work a computer can post negative comments about one of the best will and trust programs out there. I bought the program after I read the review in PC WORLD comapring other Will & Trust kits and they said Suze Orman's Will and Trust Kit is not only a great value, but the easiest of the three will-preparation packages. By the way the kit allows for multi-user use so not only did I create my own documents for my wife and I but then I gave the CD to my brother and he downloaded it in his computer to create his and his wife's documents. If you need to make a change -- updating couldn't be easier -- when my son was born I simply updated the information in my will by added him as a beneficiary and printed out a new will -- now my whole family is protected. None of us experienced any printing problems and by the way I use a mac and they use PCs.
Below is what PC World said about Suze's kit, (the aritcle is still on PC world website if you want to read the entire text comparing all the kits on the market): "For just $13.50, Suze Orman's Will and Trust Kit is not only a great value, but the easiest of the three will-preparation packages I tried. With the same demonstrative and instructional tone she uses on her PBS television shows, Orman provides audio voice-overs at just about every step. Sometimes they are annoyingly dumbed-down but, for the most part, they help to explain exactly what you are filling in on each page of the legal form--and why.When a more detailed legal explanation is needed, Dobrovolny, Orman's attorney, chimes in. The actual grunt work in creating a living will and health care directive for the user amounts to filling in personal data and selecting one of the choices for the different possible scenarios should you require life support.After the interview process (and the context-sensitive audio makes you feel like you've been in an actual rather than virtual interview), your document can be previewed and printed out for witness signatures. Wills, revocable trusts, and power of attorney must-have documents also are included, as are links to request personal documentation such as birth and death certificates, Social Security statements, and military records. Suze Orman's Will and Trust Kit requires an Internet connection to work properly.Time needed to create a living will: 20 minutes."
By the way I live in NY state and took the will I created with Suze's kit and showed it to a friend of mine whom is a lawyer and he said it was one of the best wills he has seen from a self-help program. He was impressed that it included for NY state a WIll affidavit while not required to make the will valid in New York, he thought it was an excellent idea to sign one when executing a will. It can greatly reduce the difficulty associated with probating the Will when the time comes.
And for the poster whom complained about an issue with a notary in NY state; the reason you could not get a NY notary to sign your will is that your will is NOT supposed to be notoraized just the will affidavit. Did you not read the instructions that came with kit? It is very clear what needs to be witnessed and what needs to be notarized -- it even shows you where to sign. They even tell you what to do in the audio, this is what the audio instructions in the kit say: "You're now ready to date and sign the will. Before you do so, however, you need to assemble your witnesses. Look carefully at the form you have. Some states require the witnesses to sign an affidavit in order to prevent them from having to appear in court after you die. If that is the case, you will need to take your witnesses to do the signing in front of a notary. Please note that some banks, although they do have notaries, do not allow the notaries to act as witnesses to the wills. So before you make that trip down to the bank with your witnesses all ready to sign, call ahead to and make sure the notary will, in fact, notarize the wills."
Suze has does everything to protect you, give you the best documents for less than three Starbucks coffees and all you know how to do is complain. What is a matter with all of you you should be ashamed of yourselves.
45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2006
I was blown away with this product but not or the reasons you may think. The whole thought doing my will and trust was a bit morbid -- I have been putting it off for years. Even though the audio was very informative and Suze took you though the questionniare step by step; I had some unsual circumstances so I still had specific questions as to my personal situation. I expected when I contacted customer service to receive some generic response back but instead my questions were personally answered by Suze's trust attorney.
As much as I loved the program, I intially found the will was not adequate for my needs since I wanted to leave cash gifts to several nieces and nephews -- when I expressed my dilema to customer support they told me they would get back to me -- I was shocked when they told me in the update they were working on they would be adding this option in the will. I just downloaded the update and I can now leave cash gifts to my relatives. I had an attorney friend review the will to get his thoughts and he told me it was one of the best wills he has ever seen
The program is fabulous, easy to use, informative -- everything you would expect from Suze Orman; I just never thought I would get this level of customer service from a product under $20.
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2003
I am a Certified Financial Planner licensee, and I can not believe the value and quality of this book and CD. I used the Estate Planning module for myself and my mother. It seems very easy to use, is updateable, and comes with audio discussion by attorneys on the different forms. A wonderful, practical product. I highly recommend this to anyone.
108 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2005
I work for Suze Orman and I wanted to address the issue brought up by the reviewer who said the program was too simplistic. Suze and her staff regularly read the reviews posted on amazon.com and whenever possible we incorporate suggestions on how to improve the Will & Trust kit in product updates that we offer for free. The reason you can not save the legal documents into another format to edit is that in our experience most people without a legal background make mistakes when they edit a legal document that renders the legal document invalid. When the program was created we purposely did not allow legal documents to be saved into another format for your own protection. But one of the great features of the program is through Protection Help you can send an e-mail when you have an issue or question with the product. All questions regarding the legal documents or legal questions are reviewed by Suze's trust attorney and in many situations she has been able to suggest choices you can make within the program that will allow you to accomplish your goal. In other cases Suze's trust attorney has worked with our programmers to add enhancements to allow more choices within the program based on e-mail suggestions we have received from users -- these enhancements are then posted in a free update for all users.
87 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2008
I don't have a huge estate, and thought this would work for me. I am shocked to see that SENSITIVE INFORMATION, your SS number, account numbers, date of birth, address, EVERYTHING, is stored on some server somewhere in cyberspace! Hackers would find this server a TOTAL GOLDMINE!! I selected the option not to save my data to the server, but to export it to my own computer, and import it next time I used the software. After filling in a good deal of sensitive information, I found no option to save it, and ended up exiting and losing it all. Throughout the use of this software, I had to click on a disclaimer, and warned to have a lawyer look at the documents it produces to be SURE they are complete, etc. I looked on the CD for "help" files, and found that the entire "program" consists of four tiny files, just enough to get you online. EVERYTHING is done online. There's nothing on the box that explains this. I would never have bought this had I known it's vulnerability. I can't believe someone with the status of Suze Orman would allow her name on this software. I've lost my respect for this lady.