When considering making a will online for free, it’s important to choose a reputable and secure platform that complies with the legal requirements of your jurisdiction. These websites typically guide you through a series of questions to help you draft a basic will that reflects your final wishes. Most importantly, the distribution of your assets, appointment of guardianship (if applicable), and other crucial decisions.
While creating a will can be emotionally difficult, it doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive.
How to Prepare to Write a Will
Preparing to write a will online requires careful consideration before engaging with any online platform or downloading a template. Here is a guide on how to approach this enduring task.
1. Take Inventory of Your Assets
To ensure a thorough assessment of your possessions, create a detailed list of all your assets. Initiate with financial items, identifying funds in checking, savings, and investment accounts. Extend the evaluation to property, including your residence, any owned land, additional real estate, as well as vehicles like cars and boats. Don’t forget to document valuable personal items such as jewelry, artwork, family heirlooms, furniture, and collections.
Probate vs. Non-Probate Assets:
Probate assets undergo a court-supervised process after the owner’s death, including real estate, personal property, and assets without designated beneficiaries or specific legal arrangements for direct transfer. This process can be time-consuming.
Assets Without Designated Beneficiaries:
- Inclusion in your will is advisable.
- Clearly articulate your preferences for their distribution, especially in cases like a bank account lacking a specified beneficiary.
Non-Probate Assets are assets with designated beneficiaries, such as a property with a named beneficiary or a bank account with a payable-on-death (POD) designation. These assets bypass the probate process. Examples include life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and jointly owned properties. This streamlined transfer process is typically faster and doesn’t involve court supervision.
If Designated Beneficiaries Exist:
- Should not be included in your will.
- Designations on these assets supersede conflicting will instructions.
2. Choose Your Beneficiaries
A beneficiary is a person such as a spouse, sibling, child, relative or friend who will receive something listed in your will. It can also be an organization like a charity, church or nonprofit. In general, you can choose anyone to be a beneficiary except the person who is the witness to the signing of the will. You might choose to leave everything to one individual, such as your spouse, or to divide property among loved ones and organizations.
When selecting beneficiaries, keep in mind that some financial accounts may already have beneficiaries listed. A life insurance policy, for instance, might name a beneficiary you selected when you purchased the plan.
If you want to leave an inheritance to minors, you can set up a trust and name a trustee to manage it. “You can then decide in your will the age that you think is most appropriate for the minor to receive their inheritance,” says Tim Hewson, founder and CEO of USLegalWills.com in New York.
3. The Importance of Choosing a Guardian in Your Will
(If you have minor or a disabled child)
Selecting a guardian in your will is crucial for ensuring the well-being and care of your minor or disabled child. In the event of your incapacity or demise this decision holds significant implications for their physical, emotional, and financial welfare. Without a designated guardian, the court may intervene, leading to potential delays and decisions that may not align with your preferences. By proactively choosing a guardian, you retain control. This will ensure your child is raised by someone you trust and who shares your values. For disabled children, a guardian becomes a vital advocate, making decisions that address their unique needs and circumstances. This thoughtful step in estate planning provides clarity, stability, and peace of mind during challenging times.
4. Select an Executor
An executor is the individual or organization that will oversee the distribution of your assets as outlined in your will. The executor will agree to take an inventory of your estate, pay any needed bills such as taxes or debts you left behind and file final income taxes. You might ask a loved one you trust or a dependable friend to be the executor of your will. If you select a professional, such as a bank or attorney, there will usually be a fee charged to oversee your estate, which is generally a percentage of the estate.
5. Are There Free Wills Online?
Certain websites assert the possibility of creating a will online for free, but later introduce charges either post-trial or for retaining and editing the will at a later date. It is advisable to conduct thorough research to ensure there are no concealed costs associated with the process.
Listed are researched websites that provide legal and easy to navigate online will templates for making a will.
- Quicken WillMaker & Trust – Starting at $99./year Visit Now
- The U.S. Will Registry* – 100% Free (No hidden fees) Also Offers Free Registration and Free iCloud Storage Visit Now
- Rocket Lawyer – Free (with 7 day trial) Visit Now
- Trust & Will – Starting at $159. Visit Now
- Fabric – Free Visit Now
- LegalZoom – $89.00 Visit Now
Picking the right one for your situation will require some research. Check for a site that has accurate, up-to-date information about wills in your location. The requirements for wills vary from state to state, and the regulations occasionally change. You’ll want to make sure your will follows the latest laws for your area.
Also look for a site that is easy to navigate and allows you to save your work. In addition, make certain you are able to download and print it. Writing a will takes thought and planning,” so choose a site that will help you to do this.
6. The Imperative Role of Witnessing in Will Execution
The requirement for witnesses when creating a will is often imperative and mandated by law in all U.S. states to be considered valid.
The purpose of having witnesses is to add a layer of formality and verification to the process, ensuring the validity and authenticity of the will. While the specific rules may vary depending on local laws, witnessing a will is generally considered a crucial step for the following reasons:
- Preventing Fraud and Undue Influence: Witnesses help ensure that the testator is of sound mind and acting voluntarily. Their presence reduces the risk of fraudulent activities or undue influence in the creation of the will.
- Verification of Identity: Witnesses confirm the identity of the person creating the will, providing an additional level of assurance that the document accurately reflects the intentions of the testator.
- Documenting the Execution: Witnesses serve as third-party observers who can testify to the proper execution of the will. Their signatures on the document serve as evidence that the testator willingly signed it in their presence.
- Legal Requirements: Many jurisdictions have specific legal requirements regarding the number of witnesses, their qualifications, and the manner in which they must witness the signing of the will. Failure to adhere to these requirements may result in the will being deemed invalid.
Individuals creating a will should be aware of and comply with the witnessing requirements outlined in their local laws to ensure the document’s validity and effectiveness. Consulting with legal professionals can provide guidance on the specific regulations applicable in a given jurisdiction.
7. Put Your Will in a Safe Place
Once your will is completed, and witnessed. In most states, you’ll need to sign it in front of witnesses to make it a valid document. After that you might create an electronic file. “Digitally store and share your will so that no matter if family is nearby or thousands of miles away, they have access to your will so your wishes are known and protected,” Fry says.
You can also keep a printed version of the will and store it in a secure spot, such as a safe or lockbox. Most importantly, register your will to assure your will can be located when needed. Registration is free to the public and attorneys. Too often people think their will is accessible, and too many families have suffered as a result of not being able to locate a will.
8. Safeguarding Your Will:
The Importance of Storing a Copy Online in iCloud
Storing a copy of your will in the iCloud is not just a matter of convenience; it’s a crucial step in ensuring that your testamentary wishes remain intact and accessible. Attorneys commonly utilize iCloud storage for this purpose, yet the accessibility of these documents can become compromised due to various factors such as attorney retirement or relocation.
Accessibility and Security
By storing your will in the iCloud, you provide your family members with unparalleled accessibility, regardless of their geographic location. This means that in times of need, your loved ones can readily access a copy of your will, thereby streamlining the process of executing your estate plans. Moreover, the iCloud’s robust security measures help safeguard your sensitive legal documents against loss, damage, or unauthorized access.
9. Registering a Will
Registering your will and clearly directing your family to its location, whether it be the original or a copy stored in the iCloud, is of paramount importance. By doing so, you eliminate the uncertainty surrounding the whereabouts of your will, preventing potential complications and legal disputes in the future. If your will is stored in the iCloud, providing specific instructions regarding the designated iCloud storage ensures that your family members know exactly where to turn when the need arises.
In essence, entrusting your will to the iCloud not only ensures its preservation but also facilitates seamless access for your family members when the time comes to execute your final wishes. Embracing technology in this aspect of estate planning offers a pragmatic solution to the perennial challenge of document retention and accessibility, ultimately providing peace of mind for you and your loved ones alike. And don’t forget to register your will with the U.S. Will Registry for added assurance and clarity in the event of its need.
Absence of a Will Causes Unraveling Family Turmoil
Families often face dysfunction when a will cannot be found. The absence of a clear plan leads to disputes over asset distribution and guardianship, escalating tensions and hindering the grieving process. Legal complexities and financial entanglements arise, straining family relationships and eroding trust. Proactively ensuring proper will storage and registration is crucial to preventing such disruptions and fostering family harmony during the challenging period following a loved one’s passing.