Top pick: Fabric online wills
- Make an online will in minutes
- Convenient legal support
- Share your will instantly with the app
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While most people recognize the importance of having a will and testament only about 32% of people surveyed in 2020 have a written will. The reason most people give for not having one is that they simply haven’t gotten around to it. Making an online will is a relatively new practice, but if your estate isn’t huge, and your plans are standard, a DIY online will might be the right choice for you.
A last will and testament is a legal document that lets you determine what happens to your assets and belongings after you die. A will can be as simple or complex as your estate, but should cover these main aspects:
Without a will, your assets go intestate, which means that the state you live in determines how your assets are distributed. This can put a burden on your surviving family, as they won’t have access to your assets until they go through the process of intestate succession.
The intestate succession takes longer to distribute assets than a will. Also, the decisions of your funeral arrangements and how your assets are distributed will be in the hands of whoever the state determines is qualified.
Having a will can also help you avoid going through living probate. Part of your will determines who can make decisions for you, should you ever become incapacitated. Without one, you go into living probate — and again, the state decides who will make those decisions using guardianship proceedings in court.
Either way, wills are important if you have assets, kids or a spouse. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers are also preparing wills before returning to their physical workplaces, including teachers and essential workers.
Follow the steps below to create an online will:
What needs to be in your will depends on where you live, so make sure you know the requirements of your state. But in general, your will should have the following components:
Once you’ve written your will, make sure to follow these steps to validate your wishes.
No. The beneficiaries named on your life insurance will receive the payout, unless you’ve made your estate your beneficiary. Nothing you say in your will can change that. If you have any changes to make to your life insurance policy, you’ll need to make them directly through your insurer.
However, if all of the listed beneficiaries on your life insurance policy are deceased, your death benefit will be paid to your estate. Once part of your estate, it will be distributed according to your will.
A codicil is a way to make changes or additions to your will without having to redo it. To make sure your codicil is legally bound to your will, you should include the following components:
Once your codicil is complete, you need to go through the same process to sign and notarize as you did with your original will. Then, be sure to store the codicil with your will in a safe place that’s accessible to your beneficiaries.
There are several free last will and testament forms available online, but basic services can range from $20 to $100. Some online will sites also offer additional services, such as consultations with a legal advisor or online notary, at extra cost. But compared to the $150 an hour or $1,000 average flat fee you would pay for a lawyer, even the most expensive online service will save over what you’d pay an estate planner.
The following are approximate costs for online will services:
|Last will and testament||$20 to $100|
|Legal consult||$15 per month|
|Power of attorney||$35|
|Printing||$10 per document|
Yes, as long as you follow your state’s requirements. For example, if the state you live in requires a notarized signature with two other witness signatures, then your electronic signature online probably won’t count.
But states are starting to pass legislation specific to electronic wills. As of November 2019, Florida, Indiana and Nevada have laws allowing electronic wills on the books.
Also, the Uniform Law Commission has approved a Uniform Electronic Wills Act, which could be enacted across most states within a few years. Until then, be sure to follow the requirements of your state, whether you use an online service to file or create a will yourself.
Whether an online will is for you depends on your circumstances and the complexity of your estate. A few of the larger online will sites offer more comprehensive estate planning services. Still, if your estate is over $11.58 million and large enough to be subject to estate taxes, you may consider consulting an estate planning attorney. Consider the following pros and cons before making a decision.
Building your will online has the following advantages:
Before you decide to use an online last will service, consider the following drawbacks:
Writing a will is only one part of planning your estate. To ensure your family will be protected after you die, make sure you include the following tasks in your plan:
Making a will online can be an easy and cost-efficient way to make sure your assets are distributed in line with your wishes. But if your assets make you subject to the estate tax, or if your needs are more complex, you should consult with an attorney to make sure you’re not leaving a mess for your family to figure out. Along with writing your will, make sure you take the time to plan out the rest of your estate for peace of mind that all is taken care of for your loved ones once you’re gone.
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