Once a loved family member passes, their assets are disbursed to surviving family members, organizations, religious groups according to the deceased wishes.
These instructions must be clearly laid out in a legal document known as a will. In simple terms, a will provides a designated individual with directives on who gets what. Some of the elements included in a basic will include selling the deceased home with the proceeds divided evenly between their three children. Or, an individual’s stock portfolio will be sold and donated to a charity of choice.
Wills are a document that must pass stringent legal requirements that vary by area. But the advancement of technology over the years has made it possible for the minimum legalities to be met through cheap online alternatives.
Gone are the days of relying on expensive legal experts. Consulting an easy-to-read will-making software guide makes it clear how easy and affordable online wills can be.
Online Will Makers Are Just As Legal
One of the biggest setbacks of the online will making universe is the incorrect perception that it is not “legal enough.” It is easy to understand why many people think this is accurate. Walk into a lawyer’s office and one will see their legal diplomas and certifications. There is little to no doubt this lawyer boasts the necessary knowledge and authority to create a legal will that will hold up to the necessary standards.
So, is online will-making software just as legitimate and represents a cheaper alternative?
So long as a will is properly documented and follows local guidelines, a will is valid, regardless if it is an online will or not. For example, in one region a will only become valid when signed by a witness while in others a witness has to be present during the time of its creation. Naturally, this places the onus on the individual to properly research local laws and take the necessary steps to ensure their online will is valid.
That’s it. It really can be that simple.
But online wills are not recommended for the tiny minority of individuals with complicated asset structures. The same holds true for high net worth individuals. In this case, a team of lawyers, accountants, investment professionals will be required to structure wills that factor in tax minimization strategies, establish trust funds, among other complicated tasks.
What Happens If You Don’t Have An Online Will?
There is no legal obligation to have a will. But choosing not to have a will can pose more problems than one can imagine.
If someone doesn’t have a will the local government will decide how their assets are divided up based on the relevant laws. As an example, New York state law dictates that an individual who passes will have their assets transferred to the surviving spouse and children. But, in Texas state law dictates that all assets will be divided by relatives.
The court will not take into account personal relationships between family members. Estranged relatives could find themselves entitled to assets even though the deceased individual would have never agreed to this.
The reality is without a will there’s little to nothing that can be done. The courts will dictate the final outcome based on the rule of the law.
Another common misconception is that verbal agreements are just as binding as online wills. This is far from the case. Verbal agreements are null and void in the eyes of the court.
An individual may have verbally said they want their children to inherit the family business. But in the absence of a will, the court may ultimately decide that a stake in a family business is transferred to a spouse.
Naturally, the low cost of online will making software will all but guarantee none of these uncomfortable scenarios play out.
Just How Cheap Are Online Wills?
Online legal wills can be created at the comfort of someone’s home for a fraction of the cost of traditional lawyers. But, just how cheap are online wills? Some providers offer free basic wills but may upcharge for advanced features like the ability to edit or save as a PDF.
Clearly, users of online will software will likely end up paying some fee. But rest assured, the price will likely come in substantially cheaper compared to lawyers and other legal experts.
Online wills have multiple different payment structures designed to appease specific needs.
Take Gentreo for instance. The online will platform charges $9.99 per month for complete access to the platform. For that price, the user can complete a will, have it stored in a secure digital vault, and even send the document to anyone they choose.
An example of an online will software company that charges a one-time upfront fee would be LawDepot. The “Basic Last Will” option costs $89 and includes software to create an online will, and access to attorneys for help. Free unlimited revisions are available for only 30 days and additional costs may incur afterward.
So, how does this compare to the cost of using an attorney or a legal firm? By some calculations, this option can set someone back anywhere from around $950 to $1,500.
Conclusion: The Cheaper And More Convenient Option
The world continues to digitize at an unprecedented pace and there is no reason why non-traditional industries like will making can’t take advantage of the advancement in technology. Online companies offer a safe, cheap, and convenient way to produce a document that is just as legal compared to one prepared by a lawyer.
The best part is it can be completed from the comfort of one’s home. This is the ideal setup for ailing individuals and those who wish to avoid contact with individuals after more than a year of seeking online alternatives.
Jeff Broth is a business writer, mentor, and personal finance advisor. He has been consulting for SMB owners and entrepreneurs for the past seven years.