50% of Americans don’t have a last will and testament.
Most of the people who don’t have a will say they haven’t gotten around to it, didn’t think it was urgent or didn’t think they needed one.
Nobody likes to think about death.
But, alongside taxes, it’s the only certainty in life. Dying without a will makes life difficult and expensive for the family left behind.
If you die without a will, the state you live in becomes the executor of your assets and affairs. Your family will go through the probate process as your money is divided and the state determines what to do with your children.
If you are worried about cost of creating a will, dying without a will and going through probate will be much more expensive for your family.
There are two ways to create a will: hire a lawyer or create your own will online.
In a post titled, How I Took The First Step In Planning For My Untimely Death (MUD), I explained the process I used to hire a lawyer and create a will, a living will, and powers of attorney for my wife and for myself.
However, if cost is a consideration, writing your last will and testament online may be a better option for you.
Can I Write My Own Will?
Most experts say if your family situation and assets are straightforward, then you could create a will on your own.
“A married or unmarried individual with an insignificant level of assets (that is, below the threshold before federal and/or state taxes kick in), who knows where his or her assets will go, knows there will be no conflict among the beneficiaries and who has a clear choice of executor will probably get a rather satisfactory online will,” says Jeffrey A. Asher, a partner in Eaton & Van Winkle LLP in New York. (via Bankrate.com)
From the same article, here’s a list of reasons you may NOT want to create your own will:
- You or your spouse are citizens of another country.
- You have significant assets.
- You’re raising grandchildren or stepchildren.
- You’ve been married more than once.
- You anticipate your will might be contested.
- You own a small business.
Standard Legal Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and this is not meant to be legal advice. If you have any questions, please consult a lawyer.
If you’ve decided to write your own will, there are plenty of online options to choose from.
The services available range from free forms you download to online programs that ask you questions, create the forms for you, and then send them to legal experts for review.
Of course, the more services you use, the higher the cost will be. In nearly all cases, the will you create online is going to cost you less than having an attorney write it for you.
Attorneys usually charge between $300-$1000 to create a will.
Most online services provide your last will and testament for less than $100.
Some online services are free and make money from the advertisements on their site. Other sites are “freemium” – they write your will for free, but make money selling upgraded services.
Choosing the one that’s right for you can be daunting. Enough to make you put it off another year like 50% of Americans.
Don’t put it off.
Top Ten Reviews is a site that reviews products and compares them side by side. They’ve done the same for online will creation products. When you feel like you can’t decide which online service to use to create your will, take a look at the article on the Top 10 last will and testament programs.
Then, go get your will done.
How do you write your last will and testament online?
Even though I already have a will that was written by an attorney, I am going to try to replicate the one I have using one of these services and see how it comes out.
I’m not going to sign this document or have witnesses to sign it.
That way, the one I already have is the last will and testament to be used in the event of MUD.
I read the reviews in the Top 10 article and visited some of the websites to get a feel for whether or not they were easy to use.
In the end, I chose one that was not on the list called Willing.com.
This is a new service in the online legal documents industry. It’s not included in the Top 10 Reviews article above. You can read about my experience and judge for yourself if it’s right for you.
When you go to Willing.com, here’s what you’ll see:
The first time I visited this site, I noticed a few things:
- I could write my will for free
- I could name guardians for my children
- It only takes 10 minutes
- The page was simple and easy to read
Here are the steps to create a last will and testament on Willing.com:
- Click Get Started
- Create your account with an email and password
- Follow the prompts to answer questions about:
- Your name, gender, and date of birth
- Your marital status and information about your spouse and children, if applicable
- Types of assets you have like life insurance policies, retirements accounts, bank accounts, and pension plans. You don’t have to give details, just list whether you have these accounts or not.
- Existing prenuptial agreements, terminal illnesses, or leaving property to disabled individuals
- Instructions for your assets
- Instructions for your burial or cremation
- Your executor – the person responsible for carrying out the instructions in your will
- After you have answered the questions, your will is created.
Total time from start to finish: 5 minutes and 30 seconds.
It was very simple to do and easy to understand; however, I was surprised when I got to the last screen because this is what I saw:
You can get a free will from Willing.com; however, if you have children, you have to pay extra to add instructions about their guardians.
The reason I was surprised was because, on the home screen, it said I could name guardians in the same section that it said my will was 100% free for life. I don’t have issues with the “freemium” model, but I felt like the initial marketing language was not transparent regarding the upgraded services.
I can understand the other upgrades – adding a Power of Attorney and Living Will – but naming the guardians for your children is one of the most important aspects of a parent’s will.
The cost isn’t outrageous and is in line with other online will creation products, but seemed a little sneaky to me.
If you don’t have children or if your children are already legal adults, then Willing.com is a quick, free way to create your will.
When you are finished, you can download a copy of your will and print it.
It will contain instructions on how to sign it, how to get your witnesses to sign it and where to store your will.
Here’s what I learned about doing creating my last will and testament online:
- There are many options. Pick the one that suits your price range and needs
- It should take you less time than hiring an attorney
- It should cost you less than hiring an attorney
- If your family situation is complex or you have large monetary assets, you should not use an online product. Hire an attorney instead
- Make sure you sign your will and have your witnesses sign it, too
- Keep only the most recent copy of your will
- Whether you use an attorney or an online service, be sure to keep your will in a safe place and let your executor and guardians know where to find it
Writing a will is something every adult needs to do.
There is a range of options to get it done, online or through an attorney.
Stop putting it off. Pick one of the options and get it done.