What is an online will?

When done correctly, online wills can be just as legal as one created by a licensed attorney and considerably less expensive.

Elissa

By

Elissa Suh

Elissa Suh

Senior Editor & Disability Insurance Expert

Elissa Suh is a disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius, where she also covered wills, trusts, and advance planning. Her work has appeared in MarketWatch, CNBC, PBS, Inverse, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and more.

Published|3 min read

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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.

→ Read more about wills and how they work

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. 

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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

  • Your signature 

  • The signature of two witnesses who preferably aren’t beneficiaries 

→ Learn more about the requirements of a valid will

Do I need a will?

Everyone can benefit from having a will. Do you have any assets or personal belongings you want to pass on to someone when you die? Then you should make a will.

What happens if you die without a will?

Without a valid will in place, you've died intestate, and the law in your state decides who becomes your beneficiaries.

What if I already have life insurance?

Having life insurance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write a will: these are two separate components of an estate plan and cover different things.

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. 

→ Learn more about how much a will costs

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. When you make an online will with Policygenius, it’ll come with additional estate documents and an optional living trust at no extra cost. 

Online service

Base price

Doyourown will

Free

Fabric

Free

LegalZoom

$89

Nolo

$59.99

Rocket Lawyer

Free

Total Legal

$19.95

Trust & Will

$159

U.S. Legal Wills

$39.95

Willing

$69

How to create a will online

  1. Provide your personal information. That means your address, your family members’ names, and their addresses.

  2. 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).

  3. 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. 

  4. Choose a guardian for your minor children. Make sure that someone you trust can continue caring for your dependents.

  5. 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

  6. 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. 

→ Learn more about how to make a will 

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.

→ Learn more about when to hire an estate planning attorney

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.

→ Learn more about how to set up a trust

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.

→ Learn more about life insurance and financial planning

Author

Senior Editor & Disability Insurance Expert

Elissa Suh

Senior Editor & Disability Insurance Expert

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Elissa Suh is a disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius, where she also covered wills, trusts, and advance planning. Her work has appeared in MarketWatch, CNBC, PBS, Inverse, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and more.

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