An online will maker is exactly what it sounds like — an online alternative to drawing up a legitimate will. Everyone should have a will, not least because there’s a pandemic. Below you can find a list of the top 10 online will makers in the USA.
Best Online Will Makers List
How does an online will maker work?
A will is a legal document that says where you want your possessions to go when you eventually pass away. This could be anything from donating your house to charity or leaving your three businesses to your favorite son. Whilst a will can technically be written on literally anything — literally a candy wrapper — as long as it has your signature and non-family witnesses, online will kits are a little more credible than that.
Everyone should have a will, and online wills make this easy. It’s an alternative to having to trek down to a lawyer’s office and hand over a lot of money. An online will software will take a matter of minutes, perhaps an hour at most, and turn your quick answers from the jargon-free questions into a legal document. Think of it as a simple survey, in which the answers and pasted into a template that has all the legal stuff. Different companies use different forms, so it’s worth checking out online will software reviews.
Online wills are legitimate, cheap and fast. They’re not perfect (we’ll get onto their downfalls later on), but don’t fret, they’re not a scam, or a gimmick like those companies that sell you stars in the galaxy.
It’s important to note that many do not claim to be law firms, though some do. And there’s also more to it than a simple will. You may be looking for supplemented legal documents, or features such as unlimited future revisions. And whilst these automated ways of creating wills seem impersonal, many actually include a real-life attorney to double check your document at the end. As you would expect, these services come at varying price levels.
Top 10 Online Will Makers in the USA
How to Find a Good Online Will Maker?
- Is the company legitimate? Your first step is to create a list of the most reputable companies that are legally recognized. This means scanning online will reviews to eliminate the known scammers, and using companies that have been operating for more than a couple of years. A shortcut for this step is to use the above companies as your starting point.
- Using the best will writing software. Some companies are easier than others, but they vary because they use different online will preparation software. If your priority is time, then there are many companies in which you can complete the will in under 15 minutes. If you want clarity, perhaps you have a slightly more nuanced will, then use a company that is known for being clear and mistake-free. Additionally, some will be mobile-friendly and some won’t be.
- Free help. Some companies have customer service that helps you with filling out the document, and some do not. This can help solve step 2 above, if you’re looking for clarity. Some companies also offer free revisions by an attorney upon completing your will.
- Other legal documents. If you have other legal duties, such as creating business contracts, lease agreements, power of attorney forms etc., then find a company that can be your all-in-one online lawyer. These may cost a little more, but the convenience would be worth paying for.
- Price and promotions. If you’re down to a few companies and you still can’t pick, then browse around for promotions. There’s lots of free trials and discounts around. Furthermore, it’s unnecessary to pay more than $250 for an online will. Many are under $100, so don’t be ripped off by uncompetitive companies.
- Cover assets outside of the USA. Only some companies will be able to deal with assets located overseas in your will, as this increases the legal complexity. The features of your estate are important to factor in when deciding on the best online will maker to use.
- Revisions. Some companies will allow you to revise your will in the future (often for free up to a certain date). This means you can adapt your will as your estate evolves. This may be super important to people who expect circumstances to change (i.e. they’re going through a divorce).
- SSL encryption. A very basic step to ensuring you’re picking a legitimate company that will keep your data secure is to make sure all purchases and transactions are done through SSL encryption. It may also be worth checking if the company performs frequent backups of data on their servers and have sound security protocols.
Is an Online Will DIY Kit a Perfect Substitute to a Lawyer?
Online wills are not a perfect substitute to the traditional method. There are a number of reasons why opting for a traditional lawyer is a better idea, but it heavily depends on your circumstance.
A complex will or corporation
Online wills lack nuance. They’re mostly closed-end questions being answered in text fields online, which are then automatically drawn up as a legal document. This is sufficient for a simple will, but when things get more complicated, there’s less opportunity to clarify. Plus, complex estates or complex corporations are difficult to describe without the help of a professional anyway, and miscommunication around such an important issue could pose a huge inheritance threat.
The same goes for complex wills in the sense of leaving money in trust for your kids to receive in the future. Anything particularly nuanced may be better dealt with by an experienced lawyer.
Complexity usually goes hand-in-hand with having a lot of wealth. And, in the case of having a lot of wealth, it’s worth spending the money on a traditional lawyer (and may be relatively less expensive for you, given said wealth).
If you’re in a complex relationship on paper, for example you’re married, separate but not divorced, then your will may want the subtlety and thrust that a lawyer can achieve in-person. Plus, it’s these complex relationships that are the most likely to result in a will being challenged, which further emphasizes the need for a tactful and water-tight approach.
Tax avoidance strategies
If you’re looking for legal ways to tie up your assets after you pass away, for example tying them up in trusts and potentially some legal tax loopholes, then you may want more specialized professional advice in creating your will.
A history of mental health
If you have a history of mental health, you’re at risk of someone claiming you didn’t have full capacity upon writing the will. This applies to psychosis-related mental health issues as much as it does dementia. In this case, even if you are of sound mind, it’s better to use a lawyer which will give your will more credibility in the case of being challenged.
Similar to above, an estate or assets that are held overseas increases the complexity of your wishes and involves more legal literature. This is something that can be dealt with by some online will companies, but if it’s a large amount of assets, it may be a good idea to turn to a physical lawyer for assistance. At the very least, paying a premium for an extremely high-quality DIY online will would be necessary.
Are online will legit and will actually be in effect?
As mentioned earlier, a legitimate will can be written on a candy wrapper, so long as it has your signature and witnessed by two people who are not friends or family. However, just because something is legitimate, it doesn’t mean it’s impenetrable and comes with no risk of being challenged or rejected.
Of course, the most legitimate way to write a will would be with the lawyer of Mel Gibson, or one equally expensive. Online wills lay somewhere in between the candy wrapper and the expensive lawyer — they’re valid, well-structured and have little chance of being rejected if the will is relatively straight forward. However, a will created by a lawyer would have even less chance of being challenged.
An online will is certainly effective. The only concerns you have, are those outlined above around either a highly complex will, relationships or if you have a history of mental health. Additionally, if you drew up a will using an unknown online will company that has little credibility, your will might also be less legitimate. It’s all a scale, but fortunately, legitimate online wills from reputable companies are good enough for most ordinary people.
Why a Paid Online Will Maker Trumps a Free Online Will Maker?
The phrase “you get what you pay for” isn’t always true, but what is true is that there is no free lunch.
Online will kits are already cheap. But the money you do pay goes towards the online will’s legal team, estate planning abilities (software, knowledge) and customer support. You have to be at least somewhat suspicious if a company is offering you all of this for free. The short answer is, they’re not. Free DIY wills will not be as reliable or comprehensive, and they will not come with much customer support. They’re only a small step up from the candy wrapper.
Paying fair money for an online will should result in peace of mind. You don’t know what you don’t know, and messing up your will isn’t like messing up your taxes. You’re not investigated and told to make changes. Instead, your will is void and you have no idea how things turn out. You’ve lost all control over your own possessions.
A good, paid-for online will maker will often offer other documents, as mentioned above. An important document that is not covered by a will, but often offered by the same companies, is a power of attorney. This is a process in which you give legal power to someone else to make legally binding decisions on your behalf. This allows you to choose someone else to make all of your financial decisions for you. This is important for many people, and is something you likely wouldn’t get with a free online will maker.
Paying for an online will from a good company may also have extended support down the line. You may be able to make adjustments, receive attorney advice when new information arrives or your estate evolves, and you may even have human revisions by a professional attorney. In a sense, it does sound a little like the fast-food takeaway version estate planning. But that’s what we want, isn’t it? Good value, affordable wills that are quick to deal with, and are processed online for our convenience
Concluding words for Online Will Makers
Over half of Americans do not have a will. This is simply not good enough, but online wills are helping fix this. They’re not flawless, but the more people that create a will soon, the better. Even if it means paying for an online will as a temporary will until the future when their estate becomes complex — that is well worth ~$50 to $200.
Online DIY wills are very much legitimate legal documents. They’re not created with the same level of nuance as with a lawyer, but they can be revised and approved by an attorney to put your mind at rest. With a half an hour form, free online help and potentially future revisions, online wills pose a great threat to the exorbitant industry of traditional wills — especially for ordinary people.
To learn more about online will makers in Canada go here.