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No one likes the idea of writing a will, but everyone has to do it sometime. And while you could pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to have a lawyer to do it, you can draft a legally effective and binding one with a bit of help from a few websites and software applications. These five are some of the best options for residents of the US and UK.

Are Online Wills Legally Binding?

A lot of people wonder if online and do-it-yourself wills are legally binding and if they’ll stand up in court. The short answer is yes: they’re legally binding. However, it’s important to make sure that they fully comply with the laws of your country or state. If there are any errors on a will, it might not hold up if someone decides to contest it. All of the options below provide state-specific formats, but it’s up to you to make sure that there aren’t any legal errors on your will.

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This is why it’s best to have an attorney review your will, even if you’ve used a reputable service. It’s especially crucial if you have anything that could be complicated, like a large amount of personal assets, complex trust arrangements, or specific conditions on your will. Even if you’re creating a simple will online, it’s a good idea to have it reviewed by someone familiar with the estate laws of your place of residence. Fortunately, paying to have a document reviewed is a lot cheaper than having one written up from scratch.

Write A Will Online

If you’re looking to create your will with as little hassle as possible, using an online will-writing tool or service is the best way to go. Most of these services offer long-term access to your will (though you might have to pay extra for it), meaning you don’t have to worry about printing out and keeping reference copies.

Rocket Lawyer

Consistently chosen as one of the betst ways to create a will online, Rocket Lawyer lets you use its services free for the first seven days, meaning you can spend a week getting your will ready without having to pay a dime. You can also create as many other legal documents as you’d like within those seven days, something that can make this free trial a fantastic value.

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Another big advantage is that you have legal professionals on hand to look over your documents before you finalize them, helping you avoid costly mistakes. You can email and chat with lawyers easily from the Rocket Lawyer dashboard. They’ll even review your document to see if there are any significant errors.

The questions that you need to answer to get your will are simple and clearly explained, making this a great option for people who don’t have much (or any) legal experience. Once you’ve created your will, it’s easy to download and print. If you want to have access to it online on a long-term basis, you’ll need to upgrade to the basic Rocket Lawyer plan, which costs $40 per month (or £25 per month at www.rocketlawyer.co.uk).

LegalZoom

Another popular option, LegalZoom will help you create a last will and testament for a flat fee of $69 (or £30 at www.legalzoom.co.uk). You can also upgrade to the comprehensive plan for an additional $10, which gives you faster processing, email delivery, and a trial of LegalZoom’s Legal Advantage Plus service, which allows for attorney support, secure storage and delivery of your will, unlimited changes, and an annual legal checkup (if you decide to continue your membership).

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After creating a will with LegalZoom, you can make changes to it for 30 days, after which you’ll have to invest in the Legal Advantage Plus service to continue editing.

LegalZoom also provides support for things like living wills, living trusts, and power of attorney, though you’ll have to pay extra if you’d like to create any of those. One thing to note about LegalZoom is their LegalZip review service—if you just glance at this heading, you’ll probably assume that you get a quick legal review. However, it’s only a proofreading overview: LegalZoom will quickly look for spelling errors, capitalization problems, and consistency throughout your document. You’ll still need to have it checked out by a lawyer.

Do Your Own Will

This is the only completely free service on this list, and it should only be used in cases of very simple inheritance. If all of your assets are going to your spouse or only child, this could be a good way to go. The interview portion is extremely simple, and only provides a few different options for distributing your assets.

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Once you’ve filled in the questionnaire, you’ll get a text file and a PDF that can be downloaded or printed. The entire process could take you less than five minutes, if you already know what your plan is.

Note that if there’s any sort of complication or contestation of the will, this could lead to legal issues. So take care if you use this one. However, if your situation is simple, you can save a fair amount of money without having to worry about legal trouble after you pass away.

Will-Writing Software

A number of will-writing options are available as standalone software. There is no specific advantage to this format, but some of the big names in the will-writing game offer their own software, meaning you can count on receiving a legally sound document.

Quicken WillMaker Plus

Quicken is one of the big names in personal finance software (though there are many free alternatives 5 Free Financial Software Alternatives To Quicken 5 Free Financial Software Alternatives To Quicken Read More ), and estate planning is no exception. With WillMaker Plus, you can create a will, a healthcare directive, durable power of attorney, living will documents, instructions for your executor, and a number of other documents that will be useful for you and your family in estate planning, making this a very comprehensive option. Over 30 forms are included, and you can use them an unlimited number of times, which is useful if you and your spouse are both creating wills.

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At $42.99 for the software download (or $46.99 for a CD by mail), this is a pretty good deal for the number of documents that you’ll receive. This software will only work on Windows, however, so if you’re on a Mac, you’ll want Nolo’s Online Will, which costs $34.99 and will store your information for one year. Because it’s only meant for a single person, the online version isn’t as good of a deal, but it’s still a sound option for Mac users.

Will Creator Deluxe

Like WillMaker Plus, Will Creator Deluxe is fully featured will-writing software that will help you take care of every part of your estate planning. With over 230 contracts, forms, documents, and worksheets, you’ll be able to create a legally binding will in all 50 US states. You can create as many as you’d like, and you always have access to update or print them.

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Will Creator Deluxe provides some interesting document options, such as documents intended for survivors after your death—you can use these to leave messages to your loved ones, provide special instructions for your online accounts Your Last Email & Testament - What Happens To Your Data When You Die? Your Last Email & Testament - What Happens To Your Data When You Die? I know it's a morbid subject, but the reality is that we live in a virtually immortal society. While our bodies may cease to exist, our virtual profiles go on appearing in emails, automatic notifications,... Read More , or to clear up any issues that may have been present near the end of your life. You can also find a few non-estate-planning-related documents, like a moving checklist.

The easy-to-use interface will help you get through the entire process as easily as possible, and the ability to deal with so many different potential situations makes this another solid option for writing your own will. At $33.99, it’s pretty affordable, too. Unfortunately, it’s Windows-only.

Conclusion

Writing a will is never going to be much fun, but technology can help you get your affairs in order The Digital Afterlife – Managing Your Final Affairs The Digital Afterlife – Managing Your Final Affairs As you look towards the final stage of your life, you may realize that there is a certain amount of paperwork must be handled. We've even covered a great deal of this information in one... Read More . By using a professionally produced tool, you’ll be much less likely to run into problems after your death—your executors will be named, they’ll know what to do, your assets will be spoken for, and you’ll have made your final wishes very clear. With how easy it is to create a will, there’s really no excuse for not having one.

Again, I’ll point out that it’s a really good idea to have your will reviewed by an attorney. Each state has its own laws relating to estate planning, and not taking these into account could mean trouble for your executors and heirs. Don’t leave it to chance!

Do you have a will on file? Have you used any of these will-writing sites or apps? What did you think? Do you have any recommendations for others?

Image credits: Ken Mayer and Jim Hammer via Flickr.

  1. Milos D
    May 31, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Testament is the primary basis for the division of property (if it has not made a deed of gift or life support who is also in itself exclude the legal division of assets), in which case if will doesnt exist, it automatically applies the division of property under the law. Will can be made in any form, what makes it relevant document is the will of the testator, the signature and certification by relavant state authority, record of a will drawn up or putting a will for safekeeping ... (depending on the country where the testator property is, and these are substantial differences between the various legal systems and government).
    It is essential that the testator made his will freely, being of sound mind, in the presence of witnesses expressed (this is not an essential element of a will) and the same will confirm the verification of the will of a public authority that is authorized by law. I think that is the basis of the will remains the same from Roman law till today (the will is an informal agreement with the expressed will of the one-sided and confirmed by witness or state) in all countries, the differences are only in the administrative actions of government bodies.
    Similar programs are in use, and I am of the opinion that they are good and useful.
    But there are also ProBono help that we can use.

    *automatically translated by google

    • Dann A
      June 4, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Yes, there are definitely pro bono options, and they can be really great for people who want to have a will written up without paying the full fees. I know that there are several services in the UK that will provide will-writing services free of charge, but they usually only offer the service to certain groups.

      March and October in the UK are Free Wills Months (www.freewillsmonth.org.uk), and if you're 55 or older, you can get a free will. Will Relief Scotland (www.willreliefscotland.co.uk), Cancer Research UK, and The Stroke Association also offer some resources.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Andy Frame
    May 30, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Let's go to the basics: in the UK if you don't make a will the government decides what happens to your estate.
    If you want to decide what happens you must make a will. This has to be strong enough to stand up in a court of law in case someone tries to contest it. Is something put together by a piece of software strong enough? That is why I advocate using a legal expert.
    I am not an expert on law or wills. My own will is straightforward, but circumstances may change for my family - who knows what the future may bring? My solicitor takes these possibilities into account when drawing up the will so there should not be any problems for my family when I do go.
    I cannot see a piece of software giving me the same peace of mind.

    • Dann A
      June 4, 2014 at 11:27 am

      Andy, you bring up a good point. If you have a family, and their circumstances might change, having legal counsel is very important. That's why I recommend always having your will looked over by a solicitor. The idea of using an online service to create a will and then having it looked over by a legal professional is that the "look-over" phase will cost less than having an entire will drawn up. There's definitely no substitute for proper legal advice.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Andy Frame
    May 30, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Don't know about the USA, but in the UK there's no substitute for a professional. They're not cheap but worth every penny. These 'write your own will' aren't worth the paper that they are printed on.

    • Dann A
      May 30, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      Have you known someone who used a write-you-own will? Or do you happen to know how laws are different in the UK? There are definitely UK sites that allow you to write them, and I think at least some of them offer some legal support. I'm curious as to how the situations might differ.

      Thanks for reading!

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