An online will is simply a last will and testament that you make on the internet by either filling out a form or downloadable template, or answering questions and having a will generated for you.
A will is a legal document that contains instructions on who should receive your property and belongings and who will care for your minor children — as well as who will carry out those instructions. It simplifies the planning process and, since a will prevents the court from deciding who gets your things, provides peace of mind.
Are online wills legal?
An online will can be just as valid as one drafted by an attorney. As long as the will adheres to the legal requirements in the state that you live in, it will pass muster during probate after you die.
Different states have different laws, but in order for an online will (or any will) to be legal, it typically must include:
A declaration of intent and mental capacity
The signature of two witnesses who preferably aren’t beneficiaries
How do online wills work?
Online wills come in two varieties. You can get a free last will and testament form online and fill it out with your personal information. These templates are “one-size-fits-all,” and may not be customizable to your needs.
Another way to make a will is through an online service, like a program or app, that guides you through the process. Usually this involves asking you questions about yourself and your assets and then generating a will for you. Some online will services have people that can help you during the process.
How much do online wills cost?
Traditionally a will is drafted by an attorney, who can simplify the process but can be expensive. Estate planning attorneys, who specialize in wills and trusts, charge anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars to create a will, depending on how complex your situation is.
That’s why many people turn to online wills, which can be free or cost up to $300. You usually pay a flat price for an online will, but there are also subscription-based will services that provide legal help and charge you on a monthly or annual basis.
Here is a look at the cost of different online will-writing services. Keep in mind that these are just base level prices, and you may pay more if you get other legal forms, like a power of attorney, in addition to your will.
Trust & Will
U.S. Legal Wills
How to create a will online
Provide your personal information. That means your address, your family members’ names, and their addresses.
State what assets you have and who should receive them (your beneficiaries). You can use your online will to make specific gifts (bequests) of anything you own and name someone to receive the remaining assets (the residuary).
Appoint someone to act as executor. The executor is someone who will carry out the instructions in your will and settle your affairs once you die.
Choose a guardian for your minor children. Make sure that someone you trust can continue caring for your dependents.
Sign the will, have it witnessed, and get it notarized. The will is not valid without your signature. You will also need the signature of two witnesses who aren’t beneficiaries. To make sure they don’t have to appear in court in the future, notarize the will with a self-proving affidavit.
Store the will in a safe place. Locking your will in a safe deposit box that no one can access may not be the best idea. Consider leaving it with your executor or filing it with the probate court instead.
When not to make an online will
An online will is a convenient way to leave an inheritance for your loved ones, but it can fall short in certain circumstances. Making a will online may not be the best option if:
Your estate is worth millions and you’re concerned about estate tax.
You’re susceptible to lawsuits and need asset protection.
You own or partner in a small business and need to plan for what happens to it.
You’re concerned that someone will contest your will.
You have a dependent beneficiary who needs to qualify for government benefits.
Do I need a will or trust?
An online will is just one part of an estate plan. Some people may also benefit from getting a trust, which provides another way to leave assets to your chosen beneficiaries. A trust is a separate legal entity, which means that you can leave an inheritance that transfers directly to someone outside of probate court when you pass away.
What else do I need besides an online will?
In addition to getting a will, you may want to create other estate planning documents like a power of attorney or healthcare proxy. For financial protection, you might consider getting life insurance, which pays a death benefit to your chosen beneficiary.