Having a will prepared and documented is very important to ensure that your property, personal belongings, and other things of monetary or sentimental value in your possession go to the intended hands. Assets must be transferred to another person or entity in the event of death. Heirs and children are not guaranteed the right to remaining assets unless specified in an official will. Without documented instructions on how to distribute an estate, the decisions are made by the court system or whoever the court deems suitable to handle this responsibility. This also applies to legal guardianship of minors, which is left up to the court to decide on who would be best to fulfill the caregiver role, if no one is appointed in the will of the deceased parent or guardian.
For the sake of simplicity, convenience and compliance with social distancing laws, many people are choosing the option of planning their estates and wills online. There are several websites that offer online will services at much lower costs than what lawyers would typically charge for the same service. This is a very serious and personal process, so it’s wise to weigh the pros and cons of doing it online versus in the presence of a hired lawyer. If you decide that writing an electronic will is the optimal choice for you, your family and your peace of mind, have a strategy in place and learn about your resources.
Key Points of Advice for Writing a Will Online
- Conduct research on companies and websites that offer electronic will writing services, and verify which ones seem the most professional and reputable. Don’t assume that all these websites are valid, updated and in compliance with local laws.
- Make sure that an online service will adequately meet all your needs and requests. Some online wills are limited when it comes to appointing guardianship for children, or judiciously handling more complex legal matters. Assess the sensitivity of the decisions to be made in your will, and perhaps the need for more personalized legal counsel.
- Beware of DIY online wills that may be scams. If the prices are suspiciously low, or the website seems unprofessional and vague, use your best judgment and browse other services that seem more legitimate and trustworthy.
- Determine your budget for an online will, and research price ranges to compare websites and what they offer. Some might advertise discounts or bundled options. Most electronic wills cost between $100 to $250, compared to the average cost of a lawyer which is between $950 and $1500. Compare websites based on ratings and reviews if available, simplicity, guidance, updating features, and options for advanced estate planning.
- Verify that the online will meets all the criteria to be considered legal:
- The document includes an official declaration made by the will maker that he or she is of sound mind and legal age to make his or her own will.
- It is signed by the will maker
- The will is also signed by a witness or required number of witnesses according to specific state laws
- Prepare additional legal documents to protect yourself, your will and your heirs, such as a power of attorney, healthcare proxy, living will, and a HIPAA Release. The online service you select to use should help you determine which of these should apply to your particular case and guide you through the process of filling them out online.
- Consider the different approaches to writing an online will, and thoughtfully weigh the pros and cons of each method.
- Use a template
- Pros: templates are often free, and you can complete them at your own pace.
- Cons: templates might be outdated; they might ask for unnecessary personal information, which could be a red flag for privacy invasion and fraudulent soliciting
- Use software
- Pros: standardized language prevents confusion about what you need or want to say in your will, and there’s a guided process so you don’t miss anything
- Cons: it’s usually not free, and it may not take into account specific situations such as delegating responsibility for a beloved pet
- Take a hybrid approach – Start with using a template or software to write it yourself and then hire a lawyer to council you on any concerns or remaining questions.
- Pros: You’ll have already started the process and have your questions and concerns prepared, which will cut down the time and expenses for consulting with a lawyer.
- Cons: Legal consultations are still costly and can be time-consuming.
- Use a template
Writing a will can be a daunting task to any adult at any point in his or her life, and can seem morbid to some. There’s also the emotional stress of having to decide who will receive how much of which assets. Millennials and younger generations might think it’s not a pressing matter if they have decades of life yet to live before having to make such preparations. Those in their later years and the elderly may simply not wish to face the reality of mortality. But under present circumstances with the Corona Virus Pandemic still upon us and the uncertainty of when this global health emergency will subside, having an official will prepared should be considered a necessity and not just an optional formality. Families and individuals are realizing the need to prepare for the worst-case scenario and provide financial security for their loved ones and dependents.
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