Online and do-it-yourself will kits are fast and easy ways to write your will and are considered reliable methods. However, if you choose one of these methods, you must take particular care to ensure that it complies with state law. A single mistake can render the entire will invalid. Do-it-yourself wills are best for people with uncomplicated assets and bequests.
The primary benefits of do-it-yourself wills are convenience and cost. You can easily complete online wills or obtain pre-printed will documents over the internet and many forms can be completed in under an hour. According to Kiplinger's.com do-it-yourself wills costs run from $50 to $220. These prices are considerably less expensive than a lawyer’s fees for drafting such documents, which can be several hundred dollars or more.
Before sitting down to complete a do-it-yourself will, you’ll need to have ready all appropriate information. For example, you’ll need to be able to identify your executor, an alternate executor, heirs and guardians for any minor children. You will also need a thorough understanding of your assets and their total and individual values as some online programs require you to list them. Be sure to discuss with intended executors and guardians their roles before officially naming those persons in your will.
Once you’ve completed the forms or online program, you will need to have the will signed and witnessed in conformity with the laws of your state. While most state laws are quite similar, they can vary in seemingly minor aspects. Make sure that you thoroughly understand these laws as any failure to comply can result in the invalidation of your will.
For peace of mind, you may want to have a lawyer review your will once complete. A lawyer can ensure that the terms of your will are clear, comply with state law and meet the needs of your particular situation. Some online programs offer a service where a lawyer from your state reviews your will for an extra fee.
Do-it-yourself wills are not appropriate for every person. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, are in a same-sex relationship, have assets in multiple countries or states, have a blended family, believe your will may be contested, or have assets worth over $2 million, you should hire a lawyer to draft the will.
Barbara Diggs is a freelance writer living in France. A former corporate lawyer, she has been writing professionally since 2006. She has been published in numerous print and online magazines, specializing in travel, parenting, history and law. Diggs is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Stanford Law School.