Creating a solid estate plan is crucial if you want to avoid probate and make sure your final wishes are carried out. It is advised that your records include a will and, in some cases, a trust. A will is a legally binding document stating how you want your assets distributed, and a trust is a legal arrangement through which you give someone the authority to handle your assets for your beneficiaries.
According to elder advocates Caring.com, in a survey conducted in partnership with research group YouGov, only 32% of respondents say they have created a will, leaving 68% of those at risk of dying without one.
Upon your death, your assets will likely go through probate where a judge will use your will to divide assets and grant guardianship of your dependents. For those who don’t have a will (referred to as someone dying “intestate”), the court will decide everything. The only way to avoid probate is to have a living trust established, but that isn’t necessary for smaller estates where probate with a will is usually an uncontested process.
Creating a will can be a simple and inexpensive process where you fill out a form online without the help of an estate planning attorney. We reviewed 13 online will makers, taking into consideration factors such as ease of use, availability in all states, and the ability to easily update information, to bring you the best online will companies.
The 6 Best Online Will Makers of 2020
Best Overall: Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker & Trust
Get comprehensive estate planning, personal finance, executor, and family documents for a low, flat rate
Free legal updates for one year
Downloadable software so you can complete documents at your own pace
Estate planning documents aren’t valid in Louisiana or U.S. Territories
Need to meet minimum operating system requirements on your computer to be able to use software
Not available on a mobile device
Nolo started by publishing DIY legal guides back in 1971 and went on to be one of the first websites to provide online legal information and assistance. It has since branched out into other products, like their Quicken WillMaker & Trust software tools. This program, which you can download for $89.99, includes key estate planning documents such as a legal will, living trust, financial power of attorney, healthcare directive, final arrangements, and a letter to survivors, as well as other types of personal finance and home and family management documents.
The software itself is compatible with both Mac and Windows and is easy to use, as it allows you to create customized legal documents using a simple interview survey to fill out forms. You can then save your information and download completed documents in PDF format. You can update your will at any time, but be aware that you’ll only receive free legal and software updates for one year after purchase.
Within Quicken WillMaker & Trust, there is a legal manual to help you answer common questions, and you can contact technical support for additional help. Louisiana residents won’t be able to use this software, as it doesn’t address the estate planning requirements for the state.
Why We Chose It: Customers get a large number of estate planning documents for one low price, and the software itself is easy to use. Plus, you’re not required to have an internet connection, except to download and update the software.
Best Value: US Legal Wills
Free unlimited updates for one year after purchase
Includes forms for assets outside the U.S. and/or for expats who have assets in the U.S.
Discounts for documents for your spouse or partner and for lifetime storage and updates
No living revocable trust available
Website not as intuitive as other competitors
Signup process for spouses can be clunky
Formed in 2000, US Legal Wills is an independent organization that works with U.S.-based lawyers to create legal documents, including for expats and those who have assets in Canada or the UK. Services are available in all U.S. states except Louisiana and provide some of the best values and discounts of all the websites reviewed.
Starting at $39.95 for a last will and testament, US Legal Wills customers also get free storage for their documents on the company's secure servers, as well as unlimited updates for a year. If you want to keep storing your documents with US Legal Wills, you can pay annually or opt for the lifetime feature, which is only $124.95, a more economical choice if you plan on storing your will on their servers for more than a few years. Spouses or partners can get a mirror will (plus additional documents) for 40% off.
You can create a variety of estate planning documents on the US Legal Wills website, then designate what the company calls Keyholders, which are people who have access to your documents, such as a trusted family member or executor.
Members can receive additional support by submitting a ticket through the customer service portal. If you want a lawyer to review your estate plan, especially if it’s a more complex one, you can do so for an additional $69 after you’ve completed your documents.
Why We Chose It: US Legal Wills has one of the most affordable will options we've seen, offers 40% off forms for partners or spouses, and also has an add-on service to get an attorney to review your estate plan. Plus, it’s one of the only websites that accommodates affordable wills for expats and those who have assets outside the U.S.
Best Comprehensive Estate Plan: Total Legal
Low annual or monthly fee
Premium members have access to free and heavily discounted legal services from attorneys
Ability to create a wide variety of documents, including for your business
Customers who purchase one-off documents only have 60 days to update or download them
No living trusts available
No online access for executors
Accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 2003, TotalLegal is part of Pro Se Planning, Inc., which provides self-guided legal products including estate planning and business formation documents. Customers can purchase and complete individual estate planning documents starting at $19.95 for a last will and testament, which is available in your online account for 60 days (with unlimited updates).
The biggest advantage of TotalLegal is their monthly subscription plan. For $9.95 a month, or $89 a year, you get access to free legal services including a free consultation, attorney-reviewed documents, and a free updated will each year providing the most comprehensive resources for those needing some guidance.
Document creation is simple, as you’ll go through a series of questions to inform and complete your document, which can then be downloaded and printed. TotalLegal’s help center has extensive information, though you can always call or email customer support if you have any questions. There are discounted services that include creating a simple will with a trust. You'll also get access to their document storage vault service, where there are no storage limits.
Why We Chose It: TotalLegal is one of the only companies that provides comprehensive legal services that include do-it-yourself business and estate planning documents plus free and discounted services from attorneys through their TotalLegal™ plan.
Best for Ease of Use: Trust & Will
Comprehensive learning center with articles covering basics of estate planning
Choose from three options so you can feel less overwhelmed
Website is intuitive to use, and you can complete forms in as little as 15 minutes
Only one year of unlimited updates available
Doesn’t offer legal consultations
Founded in 2017, Trust & Will aims to modernize the estate planning industry by providing an easy and secure way to create your estate plan online. Document creation is seamless using their user-friendly website and step-by-step path to getting started. The process takes as little as 15 minutes, and the company even mails your completed documents for free along with instructions to make it all legally binding.
The fintech expert's state-specific trusts offer pretty much everything you need, including a living will’s schedule of assets and a revocable living trust (one of the only do-it-yourself companies to offer this option), helping your loved ones avoid probate.
Trust & Will has a flat fee for wills of $69 for an individual and $129 for couples. A customized trust costs $399, or $499 for couples. This includes unlimited updates for a year, and you can pay $12 per year for updates beyond that.
Why We Chose It: Customers can create their estate planning documents quickly and simply. The company offers an easy way for you to decide which option is best through the Get Started section of their site, and then fill in relevant details using an interview-style format. We also like that Trust & Will makes it easy for you to make your documents legally binding by mailing you your completed documents for free and proving complete instructions.
Best for Free: Do Your Own Will
No need to sign up for an account to get access to documents
Available to residents of all 50 states
Ability to save your will as either a PDF or Word document
No legal support
No estate planning documents available
You’ll need to check state laws yourself to make sure it’s a legally binding document
Started in 1999 in Seattle, Wash., Do Your Own Will is a completely free way to make a last will and testament, power of attorney, or living will. Beyond the unbeatable price, one of the major perks is that it’s simple to use—there is no need to sign up for an account, though you will need to provide your email address if you want to make updates or changes later.
Users complete forms online by filling in details such as marital status, info on dependents, how you want your assets to be divided, and your executor. Download the document as a PDF or Word document, then you can sign it.
It’s available nationwide. One caveat: There is no legal support, so make sure you do your own research to make sure your will is really legally binding.
Why We Chose It: This free option offers one of the widest varieties of forms without paying for extras. Also, there is no need to create an account or hand over any credit card details—and you can download your documents instantly.
Best for Making Changes: Rocket Lawyer
Offers a wide variety of legal and estate planning documents
A free seven-day trial to try out their services
Ability to pay a low monthly fee for premium access or a one-time fee for individual documents
Monthly membership pricier than other options
Need to provide credit card information even for a free trial
No other bells and whistles, like secure document storage and ability to share documents with trusted friends and family
Founded in 2008, Rocket Lawyer offers online legal services that include documents and attorney services. Users can purchase individual legal documents for $39.99 each, such as wills, trusts, and power of attorney. You can download them immediately once you complete all required information online, and then receive instructions to make them legally binding. Your documents can be securely signed online, plus you can invite others to sign them digitally as well. This allows for updates and changes to be made quickly.
The best value is Rocket Lawyer’s monthly subscription model which costs $39.99 per month. For this price, you get unlimited access to all their legal documents (including making updates) and attorney services. This includes a free 30-minute consultation on new legal matters, “ask a lawyer” your legal questions, and discounts when you hire an on-call attorney through Rocket Lawyer. You can also contact customer service by sending an email, via their online chat, or by calling their hotline.
Why We Chose It: For one monthly price, you get access to all their estate planning documents and can make updates whenever you want. What makes Rocket Lawyer stand out is the ability to get legal advice for new legal issues and that you can sign your documents securely online, allowing changes to go into effect immediately.
What Is an Online Will Maker?
Online will makers allow you to draft, print, and sign your last will and testament via an online or downloaded document creator. This is a more cost-effective way to establish will and trust documents compared to going to an attorney or in-person legal service. Most online will makers walk users through a series of questions to then populate the required fields.
Once you’ve created a will, it’s a good idea to review or update it when you experience a major life event such as a divorce, marriage, a new business entity, a birth, and even a large purchase (like a new home) so that you can make changes or create a brand new will from scratch. Good online will makers allow you to make updates for a specified period of time.
Are Online Wills Legitimate?
The short answer is yes, online wills are legitimate as long as you ensure they comply with federal and state laws. Online will companies hire licensed attorneys and legal professionals to carefully word their estate planning documents so that each is legally binding.
Keep in mind that not all online will makers are created equal. Although some of these companies have products that comply with your state laws, you'll want to make sure that your final document will carry the same weight as one that’s created by an attorney. For example, if you reside in North Carolina, you need to make sure that whoever creates the will signs it in front of at least two witnesses. Check the fine print of the online will company to make sure it’s compliant in your state and confirm what you need to do to make your documents legitimate.
Do You Need More Than an Online Will Maker?
An online will maker may not be enough to address your unique situation. Online will maker services typically are best for people who have a fairly simple estate.
However, if your family situation is more complex—think multiple marriages, physical assets in different states, stepchildren, and even a small business—it might be beneficial to seek legal advice from an attorney. The same is true if you believe your estate could be subject to taxes or if someone might contest your will after you pass. That way, you can ask more in-depth questions you won’t be able to explore with online will companies (even though some claim they’ll offer support) and have your attorney draft a customized will that will be hard to contest.
How Does an Online Will Maker Work?
An online will maker helps you create a customized estate plan using the company’s software. Think of it as using a template of sorts, where you enter your relevant details in order for the software to create legally binding documents.
Information you’ll need to provide includes a list of your assets, an executor (who is responsible for making sure your wishes in your will are followed), your beneficiaries, a guardian (of your children, pet, elderly parent, etc.), a trustee, and your power of attorney.
Types of documents you can create for your estate plan include a will, living trust, financial power of attorney, health care directive, final arrangement requests, and a letter to survivors. Information you’ll need to provide for these specific documents may differ (and could depend on your state), but an online will maker should provide some guidance as to what you need to do.
What to Do After You Make Your Will
After finalizing your will, make sure to keep it in a safe place. Most people keep their estate planning documents in a fireproof safe alongside other important documents like their life insurance contracts and house deeds. You might want to give a copy to your appointed executor or beneficiaries for safekeeping.
Other options include storing them in a safe deposit box at your local bank or financial institution. This is usually a metal box that’s kept in a federally insured bank or credit union’s vault. You (or whoever has the rights to the contents in the safe deposit box, like your power of attorney) will be able to access it with a key that’s given to you or by providing identification each time you go. Another tip is to keep a digital copy stored in an emergency kit in case your physical copies get destroyed after a major catastrophe, for example.
What Are the Expected Costs of an Online Will Maker?
Prices vary for online will makers; some offer a flat price whereas others charge a monthly fee for access to a wide variety of documents. For example, you can get a free online will, which is a simple last will and testament, or pay less than $100 for a similar document. Some service providers charge per document or as a bundle for complete estate planning, which can run a few hundred dollars (though it’s still less than what it might cost to hire an attorney to draft one up). Although there are typically fees for multiple downloads or updates, some companies may limit the number of updates to the year you purchased the original service.
Is Paying for an Online Will Maker Worth It?
If your estate planning is simple and straightforward, then using a free online will service could suffice. For example, if you don’t have any children, your only beneficiary is your spouse, and your estate is very small, then free services may be all you need. However, you won’t be able to get legal support and expertise if you have questions when drafting your estate planning documents.
If you have a larger estate, a more complex situation (such as children or other dependents being in the picture), or want a legal professional to help you work through your estate planning documents, then you might benefit from a paid service.
How We Chose the Online Will Making Companies
Our goal is to make sure our recommendations are ones we would share with our family and friends when looking to make a decision about choosing an online will maker company. We looked at 13 companies before choosing the top providers. Factors we looked at include company history, price, availability in all states, offerings for online resources, whether the product was simple to use, compatibility with various devices, and whether it was easy to make updates.
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