How to make a will online

If done correctly, an online will is just as legal as one created by a lawyer, and considerably less expensive.

Zack Sigel 1600

Zack Sigel

Published December 11, 2018

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Wills help make sure your assets go to whom you want them to when you die. They contain legal information that designates the beneficiaries of your estate. If you own a house, for example, you can use the will to choose specific people or organizations to receive the house. You also don’t have to specify anyone at all.

In many cases, a will doesn’t need to consist of too much information. If you have a modest or even medium-sized estate, it’s enough to simply name a few beneficiaries and which property you’d like them to have. If that’s all you need, then you can create a will online. You’ll save a lot of money on it, too.

There are pros and cons to writing your own will, using a template, or using an online service. If done correctly, an online will is just as legal as one created by a lawyer, and considerably less expensive.

While the DIY will is an attractive option for creating an inheritance for your loved ones, you’ll still have to follow some additional steps to make the will valid. For more complex estates, a lawyer who specializes in estate planning may be the better choice.

Read on:

How to write a will online

Making a will online simply means that you’re using a website to generate the text of a will. Several different types of options exist, from using a service that walks you through the process to downloading a template and filling in the forms yourself.

Using an online will service

Trust & Will, LegalZoom, and Willing offer a step-by-step procedure for filling out a will. While each service may vary, the steps should broadly look like this:

  1. Indicate why you’re making a will.
  2. Give your name and where you live.
  3. State your relationship status and the name of your spouse if applicable.
  4. Add the names of any children you have and whether they’re under the age of minority.
  5. Indicate how you want your assets to be distributed.
  6. Nominate an executor and a backup executor.
  7. Choose any specific bequests.
  8. Describe any assets you have, even if they’re not being distributed to anyone.
  9. State any funeral or burial requests.
  10. Pay for the will and receive your copy of the will.

After receiving your copy of the will, you’ll still need two witnesses to sign it. (See below for more info about next steps.) You should also get it notarized, although that’s optional in every state except Louisiana.

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Using a template

It’s possible to get a free will template online. Just download the PDF or Word document and fill in the information yourself. The steps outlined above also apply to using a will template, except for the payment step.

Pros of creating a will online

A will you create online should function just like any other will. Declare your beneficiaries, declare the assets those beneficiaries are to inherit after you die, and sign (along with two witnesses and a notary). Because it’s so simple, there are lots of good reasons to do it.

It’s affordable

Using an online service to create a will could save you hundreds of dollars. Most services charge less than $100 to write a basic will, but estate lawyers often charge between $500 and $3,000.

Many people don’t need a complex will

If you have a large estate, such as if you’re wealthy, own multiple real estate properties or business, or have a lot of beneficiaries you want to give assets to, then you probably won’t benefit as much from creating a will online. If you don’t fall into that categorization, a simple online will, or even a DIY will you wrote up yourself, could be all you need.

Online wills are a great way to start your first will

If you’re young but still want to protect your loved ones after you die, you may want to get a will even if you don’t have a lot of property to give to your estate. Because an online will is so quick and easy to create, it functions as a great “introductory” will for when you’re still growing your assets.

As you advance in your career and your property increases in value, you can update your will later in life to account for new wealth. This is called adding a codicil. At that point, you may want to consult a lawyer, or you can create a new will online.

Cons of creating a will online

While making a will online is easy and cheap, it may not be the best option for everyone. Some reasons to go to a lawyer instead of an online service are as follows.

An online will may leave gaps in your estate

While your will can cover everything from general bequests to specific bequests, it’s easy to fall short. You might leave your house to one person, but what about its contents? If you didn’t know to specify, then anything left out of the will may have to go through probate, which is the legal process by which assets are divided up according to a court’s interpretation of your will. Probate can take a long time and cost your heirs a lot of money.

An online will could cost more in the long run

While creating a will online may be very affordable in the short term, it can cost a lot more money if goes to probate court. An estate lawyer can create a will more customized for your needs so that it doesn’t go to probate court. While it’ll cost more for you, such a will could save your beneficiaries a lot of money and time after you’re dead.

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A will is the best way to ensure your property goes to your loved ones after you die.

What do I need to do after creating a will online?

Creating a will online is so easy that you might not realize there are more steps to do after you’ve received a copy of the will. Follow these steps so your will is valid, and that your beneficiaries can make use of it after you die.

1. Sign the will

The will is not valid without your signature.

2. Two witnesses and a notary need to sign the will

Find two people you trust and bring them to a notary. In a section called the “self-proving affidavit”, those witnesses will sign the will, and the notary will notarize it. If you don’t get these signatures on the self-proving affidavit, a court may have to decide, after your death, whether you actually approved the terms of the will.

3. Keep the will in a safe place

Store a copy of the will in a secure location, such as a safe-deposit box. Keep another copy at hand in your records. You can even give one to a trusted person, although you may choose not to if that person is a beneficiary, since it could create intrafamily squabbling for him or her to learn the contents of the will.

If the will can’t be found after your death, you may be considered intestate, which means that a court will decide how to divide up the assets in your estate.

In some states, if you want to be extra certain, you may file a will with the clerk of your county court. Only certain people – named by you at the time of filing – are allowed to pick up the will after you die.

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