Should I get a free will?

If you use an online will service, make sure it’s vetted by attorneys and specific to your state.

Elissa

Elissa Suh

Published October 22, 2020

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Free wills can be valid as long as they meet a state's legal requirements

  • A poorly written will can be contested in probate court

  • You can get a free will online, but you may have to pay something if you use a service that has more options or offers a more personalized will

A last will and testament is a legal document that states who gets your assets when you die and names a guardian for any minor children. It is the foundation of any estate plan.

While you can ask a lawyer to prepare your will, you can also get one for free. The most common ways of getting a free will are writing one on your own, downloading a template, or using an online will-maker. Depending on the service that you use, free wills may only offer the bare minimum and may not be personalized to your needs. Some online will services may offer more options and guidance for a cost — but the money you pay for getting a will through them may be worth it in the end to ensure that your chosen beneficiaries receive the inheritance you set aside for them.

A poorly constructed will can be contested in court, or invalidated altogether, during probate, which can ultimately delay how long it takes to settle your estate, causing unnecessary stress and costs for your loved ones and potentially depriving some of an inheritance. If you are getting a free will, make sure to thoroughly vet the service you’re using or whoever is providing the template. You should try to get a will that’s specifically made for your area, since every state has different requirements for a will to be valid.

For a more ironclad estate plan, consider paying for a will. With the Policygenius app, you can create a will for just $120. Our tools are attorney-approved and tailored to your state’s laws.

What is the cheapest way to get a will?

Here are the most common ways to get a will from least to most expensive:

  • Drawing up a will on your own
  • Using an online service
  • Hiring an estate attorney

See a more detailed look at how much a will costs.

Drawing up a will on your own

In order to be a valid legal document, your will must follow certain requirements set out by your state. For example, it’s fairly common for a will to include a statement of testamentary capacity, or a declaration that the person writing the will is of sound mind. Another standard requirement for written wills is that they’re signed by witnesses and the will writer (formally known as the testator).

Creating a will on your own from scratch can be a cheap way to get a will, but unless you have legal experience it’s possible that you may miss something. This can complicate things once you pass away when the will must be proved by the probate court.

And getting a free will may not help you with other legal documents. If you need a trust or a durable power of attorney, those documents are more complicated and should not be attempted by a person without legal expertise.

Learn more about the requirements for a valid will.

Online will-makers

Online wills can be as legitimate as wills created by a lawyer), and will almost always cost less, too. The price may be free or moderate — up to a few hundred dollars — depending on the company and what they offer. For example, they may allow for more personalization of your will or let you add other estate planning documents, like a power of attorney or living will. (A power of attorney lets someone make legal decisions on your behalf while a living will (or health care directive) lets you lay out your wishes for future medical treatment.

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With Policygenius, you can create a tailored will using attorney-approved tools, without the attorney price tag.

Estate attorney

A lawyer that specializes in estate planning is the most expensive option when it comes to writing your will, costing up to thousands of dollars. However people with larger estates and complex needs may benefit from getting legal advice and having a lawyer prepare their estate plan. For example, you may want to use an attorney if you have a beneficiary with special needs. (Read more about when you should use an estate planning attorney.)

What happens if your will is invalid?

If a will does not meet the requirements in your state it may be found invalid during probate, which is the legal process of proving a will. Without a valid will, the court may deem you to have died intestate and decide who gets your assets and property according to state intestacy law. Usually, your spouse will inherit some or all of the estate. Having a will in place would allow you to set aside assets or a specific portion of your estate for other loved ones.

If you die without a will, a personal representative must be appointed to perform the duties of an executor.

Learn more about consequences of dying without a will.

Should you get a free will?

The benefit of getting a free will is that you don’t have to pay for anything, but the cheap cost could mean that you’re getting the most bare-bones version of the document. A free will template may be one-size-fits-all, and may not be customizable to the extent that you need.

A free will is a good option for people who have very little in the way of assets and cannot afford to pay for a will. People with a large estate, many assets or beneficiaries, or questions about their estate plan may feel safer paying for a will and some extra guidance. Fortunately there are inexpensive ways to get a will that cost less than a lawyer. If you download the Policygenius app, you can create a state-specific will for $120 tailored to your wishes. The app provides step-by-step guidance using attorney-approved tools and you’ll also get a power of attorney and living will to fill out your estate plan. However you decide to get a will, make sure you do some research about the service you’re using, whether it’s free or not.

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Personal Finance Editor

Elissa Suh

Personal Finance Editor

Elissa is a personal finance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She writes about estate planning, mortgages, and occasionally health insurance. In the past she has written about film and music.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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