Online Wills: Make Your Wishes Known & Legally Binding in Under 20 Minutes

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The Decision
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Online Wills: Make Your Wishes Known & Legally Binding in Under 20 Minutes

Creating an Online Will: Are They Legit? (2020)
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Words by:

Kristen Cavanaugh

Illustration by:

Ethan Silva

Words by:

Kristen Cavanaugh

Illustrator:

Ethan Silva

Contents

Creating your last will and testament is important. It’s sensitive. It’s personal. And, it can now be done online.

It’s not a process that’s particularly fun or enjoyable, so why prolong it? As our society grows increasingly digital, there is now space to make last wills and testaments more convenient, less expensive, and just as legal as one drafted by a licensed attorney.

In a time where the people in your life will process grief in a wave of emotions, your last will leaves them a sliver of certainty to cling to: what your wishes are for loved ones and your assets.

Top 4 Online Will FAQs

Let’s dive in and get a few FAQs about online wills out of the way.

Are online wills valid?

Yes, online wills are as valid and legal as one drawn up by an attorney, when done correctly. And, it’s really not hard to do.

The state that you live in determines what it takes to make an online will valid.

So, if you choose to create your will online, just be sure to check what your state’s requirements are.

There are four requirements that are common across most states to make a valid will:

  • Legal Capacity: that the testator meets the age of 18 or older
  • Declaration of “sound mind” and intent to pass on assets by the testator
  • Testator’s signature
  • Presence and signature of two witnesses over 14 at time of testator’s signature

Do I need an attorney?

No, you don’t need an attorney to create an online will. This point is arguably why the space for online wills exists in the first place.

By creating your will online, you can skip the time and money that comes with months of meetings with an estate planning attorney.

Whatever your reason may be - maybe it’s too expensive, or you want to preserve your privacy, or time is a concern - you don’t have to involve an attorney with the option of an online will.

If you want an estate planning attorney to look over the will you created online and confirm its validity, then you can choose to involve an attorney in the process.

But, it’s not necessary. Time saved. Money saved. Privacy maintained.

How much does an online will cost?

The sweet spot on our list of websites seems to be 89.00. However, the typical price range falls between 20 dollars and 100 dollars Some options cost even less, like ready-made forms, priced at just 5 dollars to 20 dollars.

If cost is a concern or attorney fees are high in your state, an online will could be the perfect solution.

To offer some perspective, AARP suggests that an estate planning attorney typically charges anywhere between 100 dollars to 1,000 dollars to create a will, depending on the state and the complexity of the circumstances.

Which online will companies and platforms are the best?

You want to make sure the online will platform that you use is trustworthy, just as you would a bank or an attorney. But, you also want to make sure the platform you choose makes it easy for you to create your will. Some companies help you actually generate an online will, while others offer a platform to help with the estate planning process overall. Here are a few of our favorites.

Companies like Lantern.co and Joincake.com offer free services for the overall end-of-life planning process through their free checklist.

Their customizable list can help you work in a specific timeframe, prioritize what you need to do, and gets smaller as you make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

When it comes to actually creating your online will, that’s where other companies like Trust & Will come in. With their help, it can take as little as 10 minutes and $89 to create your will online with a platform that is easy to use, thorough, and trusted.

We've also compiled the ultimate checklist for end-of-life if you're looking for a starting place when it comes to life insurance, end-of-life housing, funeral planning, and estate planning.

5 Steps to Creating an Online Will

When you choose to create your will online, there are 5 major steps to the process. Most of the platforms we listed above will walk you through these pretty seamlessly. Don’t worry!

1. Take inventory of your assets.

In this step, you’ll list out your assets.

Don’t overlook anything when writing out your wishes.

Financial items - like money in checking, saving, and investment accounts - are a great place to start.

Next, you can focus on any property, big or small. Larger pieces of property like your home, any land you own, cars, boats, and other real estate will probably come to mind first.

But, this is also when you would make note of any jewelry, artwork, family heirlooms, or furniture. Take special care to include any business ownership and insurance policies (like life insurance).

2. Pick your beneficiaries and appoint guardianship.

This is where you designate who you choose to receive something of yours in your will.

Anyone you choose can be a beneficiary, except those who acted as witnesses to you signing the will.

If someone acts as a witness to your will, they cannot also be beneficiaries. So, if you want to leave things for your children, family, and close friends, you’ll want to find others to act as your witnesses.

Beneficiaries can be:

  • Family (spouse, children, relatives)
  • Close friends
  • Churches
  • Charities
  • Non-profit organizations

Whether you choose to leave everything to one person, or divide it up among many, the choice is up to you.

In the case of minors, you should appoint someone to become their legal guardian.

Appointing guardianship is often a key motivator for young couples to create their first will. You can also leave minors a financial inheritance in the form of a trust, specifying within this section of your will the age at which they can access it.

3. Select an executor.

Think of someone you trust. It can be a person in your life, maybe a relative or dependable friend. It can also be someone who is detached from your life, like a probate attorney or even a bank.

Once you have chosen an executor, make sure you notify them of your choice.

One thing to consider is that professionals typically charge a fee one of three ways: hourly billing (usually starting around $150/hr), a flat rate, or a single-digit percentage of the estate for their services.

An executor handles:

  • Payment of outstanding debts
  • Filing your final income taxes
  • Distribution of your assets as you have specified in your will

4. Choose a site.

Creating a will is important, it’s heavy, and it can be admittedly daunting. There are so many options available for websites that offer online wills.

And, the good news is most online will services make the process of drawing up your will quite simple.

You just need to pick a site. And, here are some of the best ones (and their prices):

A lot of services, like Trust & Will, go about it by asking a series of questions, then they fit your answers into a template for you to review and sign. It can take less than 10 minutes. They even offer to ship you an official copy!

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With tools like these, you can take a deep breath. You don’t need to know all of the moving parts that comprise a will. You don’t need to worry about leaving out any major sections. These online services handle that for you.

5. Put your will in a safe place.

All right –– you’ve done it! You’ve created your will. You validated it by signing it in the presence of disinterested witnesses.

Now, you should print, staple, and store it someplace safe.

Choose a place where you can trust that your wishes remain protected. Many also highly recommend that you notify a trustworthy relative or dependable friend of the location that you choose, so that your wishes can be made known and respected when the time comes.

Why should I consider an online will?

If you are considering creating your last will and testaments, there are several benefits in choosing to do so online. Let’s take a look.

1. Online wills are more affordable.

Online wills can save you a considerable amount of money, as most DIY things do, because you don’t need to involve an attorney and all of their legal fees.

2. Online wills are easy to create.

Websites that offer online wills and testaments are designed for the user’s ease and efficiency. In as little as 10 minutes, you can complete and validate your will online. Answer the questions, review the template, sign, and ship. Easy as can be.

3. Online wills are convenient to access and update.

If you decide to update your will later on, you don’t need to schedule an appointment with an attorney. Online wills offer easy access should you decide to change your wishes in any way.

Things to Remember When Considering an Online Will

Online wills are a legally valid, convenient, and less expensive option.

But as we said before, your last will and testament are big, important, personal decisions. So when drawing up a will, there are a few things to remember when choosing to draw up a will online.

Be careful of errors.

These are your last wishes. They are personal. They are important to you, and you should take caution to make sure there are no mistakes in your will when creating one online. After all, you won’t be around to correct those mistakes when the documents are really needed.

If you have a complex estate, you may want legal advice.

Your estate may be too complicated to handle all on your own. If that is the case, you may want to consider taking the traditional route and working with an estate planning attorney.

Some websites offer legal advice and assistance in the process of creating your online will, so don’t think online wills aren’t an option if your estate is complex.

Websites like LegalZoom offer the option of legal advice from an independent attorney, with the option of an estate-planning bundle ($179) or a monthly subscription ($9.99).

Conclusion

An online will can be a great place to start for recording your wishes and making sure you have everything wrapped up and made easier for your friends and family in the case of your death.

If you are young and have a small estate, an online will could be a great option for you right now. If your wealth accumulates and your estate grows, you can always revise your online will and take steps to involve an attorney.

Your wishes are important, and they can give your family and friends peace of mind after your death, knowing that they are doing what you wanted.

Just remember, what your family does to honor and memorialize you is important for their own grief and the next chapters of their life. Be sure to let them know what your wishes are, but also that you are OK with them doing what they need to. Death is hardest on the living, after all.

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Illustrations by Ethan Silva. Ethan is the founder of Bad Lucky Studio and a freelance graphic designer and illustrator who has been working with Eterneva for more than a year. His work helps bring levity, beauty and understanding to grief through design.

Written by Kristen Cavanaugh. Kristen is a rising junior at the University of Notre Dame, and a marketing intern at Eterneva for the summer.

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