Online Will: 4 Places to Create an Online Will for FreeEstate Planning
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No one wants to think about the end. Indeed, according to a study by Rocket Lawyer, only one-third of Americans have a written will.
Most people tend to put off estate planning and making a will until they are older — due either to the fact that they are getting old or to an increase in assets that will need to be divided.
Now, if you’re a single person without dependents or many assets, and you’re completely fine with your closest family member receiving everything you have, then you may not require a will if you wish.
However, even that seemingly simple process may be complicated by laws varying between states.
But for those who have spouses, children, complicated family structures, mentally-challenged family, many assets, interstate assets, or assets in other countries, then a will is the correct choice.
There are many routes you can take to handle your will and estate planning.
You can always hire a lawyer, of course. However, lawyers can get quite expensive.
To save money, try using estate planning software capable of walking you through creating an online will yourself.
What You Need to Know to Make an Online Will
If you’re taking care of your will by yourself, you need to research your state’s laws. For instance, some rules may not apply or be binding from state to state.
Common sticking points include number of witnesses viewing the signing and the estate or inheritance tax your state may have.
Six states impose inheritance tax, which gets paid on your overall assets. For those giving assets to heirs, if one lives in one of those six states, it may take some considering to balance things out, if needed.
Another thing to consider is who you will be designating as beneficiaries. It may surprise you to know that a will won’t cover all of your assets, so for those extra assets, you’ll need to have appointed a beneficiary.
When making your own will, you need to use the correct language, be specific, name an executor you trust (and tell them how to find your will), appoint a guardian for minor or mentally-challenged children, and spell out contingencies.
It may seem like a lot, but luckily, there are many ways to plan your will and estate online, with step-by-step help and entirely for free.
Free Wills and Estate Planning Online
Completing free wills and estate planning online is great for a number of reasons: it is easy, cheap (depending on which site you use), and guides you step-by-step as you go.
Usually, to complete wills online you need to have all of your personal information such as name, married status, address, etc. You also need to be prepared to name a will executor and how you’d like your assets to be divided.
Specifics vary by site, with some free online services having spellchecks, checklists and so on — added features which make sure you don’t miss anything — while others do not.
Also, certain sites only work with certain computers, so make sure to check before using or signing up for anything.
The website doyourownwill offers last will and testament, living will and power of attorney services completely for free.
They don’t require an account or credit card and they deliver all forms in Word or PDF files for easy transfer, storage, and printing.
Their last will and testament service includes outlining how you would like your property to be distributed, the naming of guardians for children, mentally-challenged dependents or other legal dependents, and the appointment of your executor.
Their living will service is available to let others know your health care decisions.
Also, through their durable power of attorney service, you can appoint someone to communicate your decisions if you can’t for some reason.
You can make a will online in just a few easy steps. You’ll need to enter basic information (such as name, address, marital status, dependents), name a will executor, describe how you’d like your assets to be divided, and download your document.
The FreeWill company offers “a gift for you and your future,” as their website puts it. They offer a 100% free service to create or update your will.
They cite a few examples of why you should use FreeWill, including:
- To be thoughtful by making such important decisions at home
- To be kind by supporting people or causes that mean the most to you
- To be savvy by saving money, stress and time for you and, later on, your loved ones
To complete their process, you need to fill out an online will using their free will software. It takes about 20 minutes to complete the forms, then your last will and testament is ready.
They make sure that the legal language used throughout the forms is binding and legal for your state, providing a binding document.
Afterwards, you need to print out the forms and sign them. It isn’t official until they’re signed.
Make sure to physically sign all copies of your will, along with your initials witnessed by two people.
Keep your new will somewhere safe but accessible, keeping it from harm’s way. Destroy previous wills if you have them.
If you have a larger estate, children with special needs or complicated family dynamics, it is recommended that you pair FreeWill with the help of an attorney.
You just need to complete the regular FreeWill process and then they will provide free forms yo can print and bring with you to the attorney. This saves you both money and time.
So far, 22,222 wills have been created with FreeWill. Additionally, over $273 million has been committed to charity with the free service.
3. Family Trust Institute
The Family Trust Institute specializes in free online estate planning software.
Their process features some of the best estate planning software used by lawyers to create documents. The entire process is easy, efficient, flexible, and secure.
The Virtual Estate Planning System (VEPS) is a portal allowing you to securely create, store, update and share estate plans to protect your legacy and family.
The online system is completely automated, capable of drafting and assembling complete estate planning documents based on your state-specific needs.
Unlike other sites, their process does not have “canned forms” but instead uses dialogues to prepare custom documents that suit your needs.
Their free will software and estate plan options include all of the following:
- All trust and will versions with myriad distribution options (both residual and specific)
- Specialized stand-alone trusts such as an IRA Beneficiary Trust
- All supporting documents including: pour-over wills, Powers of Attorney, HIPPA-compliant health care powers, trust certification and transfer documents such as deeds, worksheets and correspondence.
4. Law Depot
A happy medium between free online will software and paying for estate planning assistance is Law Depot.
You see, Law Depot is an online estate planning software that offers a free first-week subscription. During that free subscription period, you can access all the documents necessary to create a will, power of attorney, and living will.
Their online will software is extremely easy to use. It walks you through creating the documents step-by-step.
You can save the final document as a PDF or Word document. Word document is recommended, as the process does not involve a spellcheck, checklist or asset worksheet so errors may need to be fixed afterwards.
Of course, after the free trial week is over, you can choose to subscribe to the service for a monthly fee or pay for each new legal document you wish to make.
So far, Law Depot has had over 10 million users, with over 10 million legal documents created and over $2 billion in legal fees saved.
Free Will Software Reviews
Free will software has a lot of good things going for it — it’s free and online. But, it also has many negatives that need to be taken into account.
For example, a CNBC report notes that “estate planners… say that D.I.Y. legal software programs and online sites are inadequate for consumers’ needs.”
Free sites have many possible flaws. One such flaw is that their information may be out of date or incorrect.
Small errors such as state-specific requirements could have a huge impact on the legality of the will later on.
Additionally, many do not have spellcheck or checklists for you to follow. The wording and formalities required are extremely important and easily written incorrectly.
Another aspect to consider is how the site is making money. Some estate planning software reviews note worries about data protection and vendors selling your personal information to make money.
While that’s certainly not the case with most (hopefully), it is always better to be safe rather than sorry.
Trust & Will
Instead, consider getting the help you need without the price of an attorney. Companies such as Trust & Will make it possible to make a will online.
Their will maker software makes it easy for you to complete a will in no time.
Unlike many free will makers, Trust & Will use 2048-bit SSL bank-level encryption to process information. This means it won’t be hacked or sold.
To start the process with Trust & Will you do not need any prior legal documents or experience. The system will walk you through everything in minutes.
Trust & Will are also adamant about staying up to date on cutting-edge technologies, meaning the completion process will be smooth and the processing time minimal.
They offer unparalleled customer service, technology and transparency, in contrast to many other estate planning sites which are outdated and unresponsive.
They even offer free will deliveries of PDFs for free. After that, all you need to do is sign and notarize it.
Their will packages start at just $69, including one comprehensive legal will, customized situational aspects, live support, and a fast turnaround time of ten minutes (not including delivery, if needed).
Regardless of which route you want to take — the free route, free-trial route, minimal-cost route or lawyer route — the fact remains that you need a will.
Do your research and see what method fits your lifestyle and needs the best.
Try to save money where you can but do spend it where it is necessary to get the best fit service for your situation.
Best of luck planning your will and estates!
Logan is a practicing CPA and founder of Choice Tax Relief and Money Done Right. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.