As more details emerge about the death of prolific pop star Prince, people close to him have revealed that he did not have a will. He was far from alone: Studies estimate that more than half of American adults do not have wills. That can mean uncertainty, expense and conflict for surviving loved ones. Forum talks about wills — when should we make them, and what do we need to know?

Planning for the Inevitable: How to Draft a Will 3 June,2016Mina Kim

Liza Hanks, partner at Finch Montgomery Wright LLP, a Palo Alto law firm specializing in estate planning
David Hellman, estate and tax planning lawyer, Law Office of David Hellman
John O'Grady, mediator and estate lawyer, O'Grady Law Group; chair of the Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco

  • Another Mike

    Years after my mother passed away, I found my dad with a much younger woman, and a little girl who looked surprisingly like my sister did when she was little.
    Can I use a will to cut off any and all half-siblings?

  • Amber

    The reason most people don’t make a will, is because it’s not clear HOW to do this, and it seems very expensive.

    I would very much like to make a will/trust so that my minor children are taken care of, but I have been told that it will cost minimum $1,500 to have a will made. The average person, including myself, can’t afford this.

    Are there more inexpensive ways to have a will made?

    • marte48

      there is software that you use online. LegalZoom is one of them.

    • For a simple will, the price should be lower than $1500, even with a very experienced Trust/Estate Attorney. My office in the East Bay has a flat rate of $500.

      • Another Mike

        Curious about issues other people brought up:
        1. How much to update it as circumstances change (another kid, a vacation cottage, etc.)?
        2. And what if something happens to you? Do you have a succession plan? (Assuming a sole practitioner attorney)

  • Amy Ispaperless

    I am wondering who the right person so help sort out guardianship is. We don’t have relatives who would be right to step in. Who could help us sort through making a good plan for our kids?

    • Another Mike

      My wife and I were in the wills of good friends of ours, even though both had siblings — they just trusted that we would do a better job. The “kid” is now 30, so we never had to take on the task.
      I would ask yourself if you have friends you would trust to raise your kids properly. Presumably there would be funds to do so. Then find out if they would be willing.

  • Ellen A

    It seems like the lawyer-client relationship may last for decades. How do I find the right individual lawyer to assist me with such important documents?

    • On the show they answered this question primarily by saying that one should use a referral from a friend or family member. Not everyone has a good referral source, and you may not “click” with the attorney you are referred to. I suggest setting up consultations with several different attorneys (most offer a free consultation), and choosing the one you feel most comfortable with. And, it may go without saying, but that attorney will be best suited to help you if they are not on the verge of retirement, and they have a stable practice in your area.

      • Adrian

        Thanks for that, Matthew.

  • marte48

    how do you know that you can trust the lawyer?

  • marte48

    what do you think of LegalZoom?

  • Ed

    In regards to Medical (Medicaid) reimbursement obligation, a website for information was mentioned, I wrote down but the site did not come up. What is the correct URL?

    • Another Mike

      Try — That was the URL I heard.

      • Ed


    • What they did not mention on the show was that an experienced Elder Law attorney who specializes in Medi-Cal can actually help people to avoid reimbursement altogether. This is generally known as long term care planning.

  • Sara Lopez-Isaacs

    We recently relocated to California and want to begin the process of estate planning. We own property out of state, will we have to prepare separate estate planning/ trusts for our out of state assets?


Mina Kim

Mina Kim is KQED News’ evening anchor and the Friday host of Forum. She reports on a wide range of issues affecting the Bay Area and interviews newsmakers, local leaders and innovators.

Mina started her career in public radio at KQED as an intern with Pacific Time. When the station began expanding its local news coverage in 2010, she became a general assignment reporter, then health reporter for The California Report. Mina’s award-winning stories have included on-the-scene reporting of the 2014 Napa earthquake and a series on gun violence in Oakland.

Her work has been recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association.

Mina grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Oak Park, CA. She lives in Napa.

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