Caring.com’s 2019 survey says nearly 60% of U.S. adults do not currently have estate planning documents such as a will or living trust – and only 20% of adults under age 35 have a will. If you’ve been avoiding making a will, an online will seems like an easy and fast way to document how you want your assets distributed after you die, without the expense of hiring an estate planning attorney. An online will can be easy and fast. But without background information and legal advise, a will that does not meet legal requirements or does not use smart financial strategies could cost your loved ones time and money if something happens to you – exactly what you were trying to avoid.
DIY is a popular way to save time and money and make something exactly the way you want it. Making a Do It Yourself will at home on your computer could end up costing you time and money – and get you exactly what you didn’t want. For example, in Illinois you must have two witnesses watch you sign your will. And there are special rules that apply to the witnesses and their ability to inherit. If you’re still considering using online will software, here are some additional things to consider.
What’s a valid will in California or North Carolina may not be valid in Illinois, and each state’s courts have different precedents on how they interpret inheritance laws. Some online wills offer different versions by state, but that won’t consider how the state’s courts interpret the wills. Local estate planning lawyers have a good understanding of how local judges make estate decisions.
Most online wills lead you through a series of options to create a will that fits your general circumstances:
Estate planning software can’t easily account for what will happen in other unique scenarios that do happen often. For example, the executor of your will dies before you, or if someone such as an ex-spouse challenges your will in court.
State probate laws change. If you fill out and store a will online, no one is responsible to notify you of changes in the law that may make a difference in your estate, or advise you of new taxes that may change impact your beneficiaries.
Online wills are intended to be easy to use, understand and complete – and can easily be misunderstood. When you file an online will, an attorney does not personally review your decisions and advise you of better strategies that might meet your goals.
The first draft of a basic online will may not be difficult or expensive. But future changes to your will cost additional money and can become confusing. Personal choices are made over time – if you get married or divorced, inherit property, have children, choose to provide for a pet, want to leave money to your favorite cause, own a family business, invest in stocks or bonds, have insurance policies – and the more personal choices you have, the more likely your will becomes complicated and you have tax and inheritance laws to consider.
Plus, most online wills charge a monthly storage fee – which adds up quickly over time.
A will doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. And if you’re young, unmarried and have minimal assets, a basic online will might give you peace of mind. But as you have more dependents, responsibilities and assets, creating a will with the advice of an experienced estate planning attorney will give both you and your family confidence and peace of mind.
Estate planning is preparing for the future. Contacting Estate & Probate Legal Group in Lombard Illinois today at 1-630-800-0112.