Drafting the simplest of wills may very easily cost over $500, depending on your location and the legal counsel you chose. More complicated ones can incur several thousand dollars.
Haing a simple online will saves you money — it may even be free. But before you jump to make a will online and make the low-cost purchase, few important questions are to be asked to yourself.
- Is your family situation simple and not too many hands chasing too little ? Online wills typically are good for a single person with few assets or a couple without children. More closed ones may mean more difficulties . Siblings, second marriages or young children may require specific language to counteract possible disagreements.
- Are your financial papers in order? If your assets are not properly titled or if your net worth is taxable at death in your state of residence, your situation may be bit complicated for this approach. If your real estate is taxable, more personalized documents can be designed to save taxes, leaving more money for your heirs.
- Does your trusted person posses the knowledge and skills to implement the directions in the will? Executor is diffficult job. Even with a simple will, there are details to handle and accounting to record.
If you answered yes to these questions, an online service would help you with your basic needs in not only a cost-effective but also efficient way.
Where to start? Many of these cheap will services have been around for years, like Nolo and Legal Zoom. Find one that has good ratings from customers and the Better Business Bureau.
Most come with farily clear, understandable directions. They are written by a national team of lawyers including those qualified to write wills in your state. Many even have lawyers on staff for questions. Few offer monthly subscription services, which rarely people need, adding an unnecessary expense.
The most difficult part for many is facing their own death and answering important questions. The following are stumbling points:
Who do I leave my wealth to?
Who will be my executor?
Do i have some personal property which I want to go to a specific person?
What do I do want to do with my online presence: social media, email accounts and websites?
Because of these challenges, some put it off or slow down the process — or stop all together. Yet I continue to read people in search of a will done comprehensively They can carry on with their life and know their family and friends will have a plan in place.
Important points to remember
Although your will online might look efficient , don’t be misled by some sites that promise wills in less than 10 minutes. You may be able to fill in the information quickly, but there are more challenges .To download the documents, fill them in but never having them signed defeats the purpose.
Before you sign your will, review it 2-3 times with the instructions in hand. You do not want to create a mistake where you leave out a child’s name or generically say “all my children.” Courts follow instructions and want details.
Also have your will signed properly according to state law. Depending on your state of residence, this probably means notarized with witnesses. Give yourself a timeline and a final date before which you want this to be done . People who buy these products and then leave them sitting in a corner virtually or in their home office are wasting money.
Also, let your loved ones know where to find the will. If you have an old will, make sure to destroy it to prevent confusion.
You will be surprised to know that just 42% of U.S. adults are with a will.
If you intend to leave out one of your children for any reason, ask a lawyer, as you need a legal language to avoid a future challenge. The same rule applies if you own property in another state. Even if it is in joint ownership, estate tax rules vary as do state laws. Owning property out of state is perfectly fine, but the next step of distributing property there may mean you need more than a simple will from your state for estate purposes.
Remember the will is only one piece of your wealth management. You need to have a financial power of attorney and health care directive legally in place too. This are available online. Each state has a standard form for health-care directives. Power of attorney forms are provided free online from the will services.
Apart from signing all the legal documents, you should tell the beneficiaries of your retirement accounts as they will receive your retirement funds, no matter what your will says. These beneficiaries may be changed at any time and supersede what your will says. Investment and bank accounts can also be “paid on death” or “transferred on death,” avoiding the will and probate process through paperwork at your financial institution.
A will is still needed for personal property and if anything might have missed out in your planning. Apart from this , organize a list or easily available file or folder (physical copy as well as soft copy ) with all the information someone would know if you died, from who to contact, to where your money is. List the correct name on each account , what debts you have and who your employer is. Other pieces of information you may include are who to contact, passwords and safe-deposit information.
Your funeral wishes don’t belong in a will. This document is often not found after your memorial service.
Never put your estate plan on autopilot, thinking once done, you are set for life. Review it every five years. Also, be aware of these important points:
As your assets grow, your estate plan should as well. Your net worth impacts your taxable estate and perhaps your planning for distributing assets.
Changes in your personal life whether new marriage or a divorce means your will needs to be updated.
A move to a new state where you are become a resident means it is time to create a new will for that state. Wills are particular to the state.
Changes in federal estate laws are reason to review your will, as are changes in state law. For example, some current federal estate laws expire in 2026.
Cost-effective may not mean cost-efficient if you lose track of the will or do not keep it updated. Because problems or issues are not discovered until after death, the outcome is unplanned expenses, delays and stress for your heirs who are already grieving.
There are many stories of unplanned will, half filled will ,vague will or not signed and documented will. Take for example ,A woman hired a lawyer to draw up the will but asked the lawyer to send her the document and she would get it signed by two witnesses , rather than pay to do it in the lawyer’s office. The woman signed and got it notarized but failed to have the two witnesses as her state law required. Her property got tied up in probate, costing her family money and undue stress.
So know yourself. Are you the type of person who needs to be nudged when it comes to details or considering your own death? The human interaction may give you the impetuous to make this happen.
Online, with a lawyer or with a combination is a way to thoughtfully care for your heirs. Whatever way you chose, know that you will be making their lives easier when they are grieving.