apps, software and internet

Online will DIY kits flooding the US

laptop, notepad (©Nick Morrison)

laptop, notepad (©Nick Morrison)

A will, an important documentary that we should all create but very few of us do, is essentially a binding agreement to denote who exactly will get your possession when you pass away. Not exactly a scenario that you have an urge to explore but it should be one we’re prepared for not least during a pandemic.

Of course, the biggest reason why many don’t isn’t just because they’re young or haven’t given the idea of death any respect, it’s also because it’s expensive and time consuming. Lawyers and meetings aren’t convenient, nor are they cheap. So, when an online will maker can offer you one for $20 that takes 10 minutes to make from the comfort of your own sofa, there are no excuses left. Evidence of this can be found with the top 10 online options, all of which are profoundly cheaper than a traditional will.

 

What exactly are online will kits?

Online will kits are exactly what they sound like: bundles of legally binding documentation that can be completed online. Everything these days is becoming digitalized, so why not wills? The headline here though is that because they’re bypassing human labor (for the most part), costs are very low. The processes are automated, so that cost-cutting is reflected in the product that the user buys. 

Online wills were gaining traction throughout the pandemic with 143% week-over-week increases, but they were already well established before this. However, they’re not popular enough. 68% of Americans do not have a will at all.

 

How many companies are offering online wills in the US right now?

Whilst it’s hard to put an exact figure on the amount of online will companies (because they don’t necessarily need to be listed on a certain authority/body register), there are likely well over 100. Of course, some of these will be law companies and some will merely be tech companies.

Both a law company and a tech company can offer legitimate wills, but the law company will likely have in-house attorneys that may not only create the template documents and software, but also review them.

 

Can you use online wills in any state?

When executed properly, online wills are as legitimate as wills created by attorneys. A will is either legal or it isn’t. There are a couple of caveats though. The first is that, if you have a will that is very complex, online wills may not be able to offer such depth. You do not want to create a will using automated software if it is highly complex or suspect it may be challenged. Here are some possible reasons which fall under these exceptions

  • A complex business structure (i.e. international)
  • Have mental health problems
  • Have complex relationships with those close to you
  • Want a complex trust scheme (i.e. want you children to receive assets in delayed instalments)

The other reason for not using an online will is if they’re not recognized by your state. This isn’t a blanket list of states, because as we said, online wills are as legitimate as traditional wills. But some companies may not create wills that comply with certain State laws concerning wills, and thus you will have to check state compliance with whatever specific company you consider

 

A review of the top 3 online will makers

Here are our reviews on the top 3 online will makers currently in the USA:

 

Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker & Trust

  • Most popular online will maker software on the market
  • Addons available
  • Positive reviews
  • User friendly and easy to use
  • Costs $89.99

 Pros

Nolo’s online will kits offer a bunch of add-ons, such as a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, Temporary Guardianship and Limited Power of Attorney. The wills are up-to-date with the latest laws and formatting. Not only this, but multiple users can make use of the software, which makes sense given online wills are a product that affects the family. 

Nolo also offers helpful resources, such as FAQs and an entire eBook.

Cons

The software costs $89.99. Whilst it can be argued to be good value, it’s nevertheless expensive relative to competitors. This means it may not be suitable for everyone’s needs. On top of this, there’s no web-based option, so you’re going to need a PC to use it.

 

US Legal Wills

  • One-time fee
  • Takes 20 minutes
  • Good customer support
  • Costs $39.95 for a basic will

Pros

US Legal Wills have online will kits that are incredibly fast to create. The process takes 20 minutes, yet is fully customizable with many options, the end document can also be reviewed by a lawyer. There’s a bunch of other legal documents to make use of, such as Trusts, Power of Attorneys and Expatriate Wills. These features make it truly stand out.

Cons

The downside is that there’s so many options that it takes away the simplicity selling point of online wills. Furthermore, there’s no package that incorporates everything into one good offer.

 

Trust & Will

  • Trial period with a Money Back Guarantee
  • Great User Interface
  • Fast and user friendly will creation 
  • Costs $89

Pros

The biggest advantage of Trust & Will starts right from the offset with their user-friendly website. Everything is transparent and easy to navigate — clearly this one will be a hit with millennials. Most wills take under half an hour to complete, and are jargon-free and for the most part, mistake-proof. 

Cons

The price of Trust & Will isn’t necessarily too high, but it’s far from the lowest on the market. The biggest disadvantage is the customer support. You cannot phone up if you need detailed support, which is an issue. This, along with its simplistic software, means that it’s difficult to create wills for complicated or nuanced scenarios. It’s not a law company like some of its competitors, and it’s only been trading for a couple of years.

 

Final word

Whether or not you believe COVID-19 to be a huge threat or not, there’s no doubt that pandemics, natural disasters and personal tragedies do happen. We can often feel invincible when young, which is perfectly normal, but it’s no excuse to not be prepared. If you have significant possessions, then you want to ensure they go to the right person. If it’s not a huge amount of possessions and you are young, then online wills are the perfect comprise.

Of course, they’re not for everyone. If you have a complicated estate, relationships and/or mental health issues, it may well be preferable to seek guidance with an attorney via the traditional method. If you want something in-between, there are some online law companies that offer online will kits with the qualified legal guidance. 

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