5 top online, low-cost will services for estate planning
According to a recent Gallup poll, 56% of Americans do not have a will. Dying without a will means that state laws will determine how your assets are disbursed, and these laws may not be in alignment with your wishes. In some cases, if you are single and have no living family, the state may inherit all of your assets. Whether you have family or not, dying without a will, or “intestate,” means that your estate must go through probate, a lengthy legal process that can take several years.
For people with complex estates or circumstances, hiring a lawyer is often the right choice. However, if you have a small estate or your situation is fairly straightforward, you can create a will online without a visit to a lawyer’s office. These five websites will give you the tools to create a last will and testament at a fairly low cost.
LawDepot allows you to select a state-specific last will and testament form, then guides you through completing the sections by asking a series of questions worded in plain language. Additional information about each question topic can be found in the margin and there is an 800-number to call or online chat option if you need support. The completed document can be downloaded or printed immediately upon completion. To complete the will, sign the printed document in accordance with your state’s laws. The site offers a one-week free trial, which creates an opportunity to complete a large number of documents for free if you have the time to spend. A one-year membership allowing you access to the site’s entire document library is available for $7.99 per month if you prepay. Changes can be made to your document any time while your subscription is valid.
Rocket Lawyer offers a suite of legal resources. Documents are reviewed by attorneys for compliance with state laws. The site asks questions in plain language and uses your answers to complete the will. After completion you can instantly download and sign the document, which has to still be signed in ink with a “wet signature” on it in order to be valid in probate court. Technical support is available via phone call or online chat, and you can consult with an attorney while creating your document. After a free seven-day trial, you can choose an a-la-carte service plan or a $40 monthly fee for unlimited services.
LegalZoom offers a basic will package for $69, and you can make changes for up to 30 days from the purchase date. Forms are state specific, and your document is reviewed by an attorney before the final copy is available to you for signing. Depending upon which package you choose, you can download a digital copy of your will in as little as two days. This version can be printed and signed, or you can wait for the final official documents to be sent to you via mail before you and your witnesses sign. You can also complete health care directives, power of attorney forms, and other estate planning documents for an additional fee. Technical support is available by phone or email. You can also call a lawyer and ask questions while completing your documents and the site has articles to help you as well.
Willing.com is easy to navigate and uses basic questions and large buttons to click your way towards your last will and testament. As part of the last will and testament package, they also guide you through specifying burial and memorial preferences, creating advance health care directives and power of attorney documents, and drafting a transfer on death deed for your home to avoid probate. All documents are customized for your state of residence, and available instantly for printing or download. You and your witnesses will sign the printed copies and the document cover page will provide you with state specific instructions for signing your will. Pricing is straightforward, with a flat $69 fee to print all of these documents. Changes can be made for free within one year of the purchase date.
Nolo Quicken Willmaker Plus
Quicken Willmaker Plus is downloadable software that offers the user state specific legal forms to fulfill a variety of purposes. The package is available for $79.99 and includes estate planning documents, executor documents, home and family documents, and personal finance documents. To complete the will, sign the printed document in accordance with your state’s laws. The software includes a video tutorial and legal reference manual.
By Andrea Keatts, CFA
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