Online Wills: How to Know if an Online Will Service is Right for You

Online Wills: How to Know if an Online Will Service is Right for You

by Michelle Fabio, Esq., September 2014

You’ve probably heard how important it is to have a will to make sure that your loved ones are taken care of after your death and that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. All of this is true, but do you really need to hire a lawyer to write your will or can you make a will online? Read on.

How Do Online Will Services Work?

There are several different kinds of services that create wills online. Many such websites offer an online wills maker through which the user is asked a series of questions; the responses are then inserted into a will template thus creating a last will and testament.

Other websites simply provide online will forms that you can fill out on your own without much guidance, and yet another way you could create a DIY will is through downloadable software that walks you through the process.

Are Online Wills Different from Wills Created by an Attorney?

So long as your will complies with your state laws regarding valid wills, an online will carries the same legal weight as one created by an attorney.

Who Should Consider Making a Will Online?

Making a will online may be a good idea for those whose assets are worth less than estate tax limits (both federal and state) and who have a fairly straightforward estate. If your estate could be subject to estate tax, consulting a lawyer is advisable.

Issues such as stepchildren, re-marriage, property located in different states, or a small business may also raise complications that would benefit from legal advice.

You should also consider whether you think someone is likely to contest your will after your death. If so, you may want to consult with an attorney.

What Are the Advantages of an Online Will?

One of the biggest advantages of using an online will service is that it generally costs less than if you meet with an estate planning attorney to draw up your will.

Another plus of making a will online is how quickly you can have the finished product in front of you—within a half hour is possible. With an attorney involved, you will have at least one meeting before the document is prepared, and then you will have to wait for your will to be drawn up, which could take days to weeks to even months.

You may also simply feel more comfortable preparing your own will online rather than involving anyone else in the private details of your life.

It’s also important to remember that wills are filed with the local probate court and will therefore become public record. If privacy is a concern for you, you may want to consider a living trust, which does not go through probate.

Final Considerations Regarding Online Wills

Remember that the laws regarding wills vary greatly by state, so any online wills service you use should have forms, templates, and/or questions that are geared toward your state to be sure the final product is compliant.

Once you have drafted an online will, be sure to print out several copies and keep them in safe places. At the least, your executor should know where to find your will, and you could also inform your spouse, children, or other family members as well.

Finally, remember that a will is a living document, so to speak, so don’t just create it and then forget about it. Life events such as births, deaths, marriages, and divorces can make your wishes regarding your estate change drastically, so be sure to revisit your will from time to time to make sure it’s up-to-date.

One idea is to review your will annually around your birthday. That way, you’ll be sure to give yourself a wonderful gift: the peace of mind that your wishes will be followed after your death.

LegalZoom’s own online will service begins with a questionnaire, but then the answers are reviewed for completeness and consistency by a specialist to give you peace of mind.

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