The purpose of a will is simple: once a person dies their assets are distributed to surviving heirs, relatives, charity groups, and other institutions according to the deceased person’s wishes that are detailed in a will. Without a will, the legal system will swoop in and will be granted sole authority on how assets are distributed, according to the letter of the law.
The impact of not having a will could result in irreparable family damage. Consider this: what if someone suddenly passes and the family business ends up in the hands of an estranged child instead of a loving spouse that helped co-run the business for many years?
There are many reasons why an individual chooses not to create a will. Perhaps they are sick and in denial of their illness and can’t accept their pending death. Or, someone is young and healthy assumes a will is a document reserved exclusively for elderly people and fatal accidents only happen to other people.
Regardless if someone is young and old, healthy or sick, wealthy or struggling financially, a will is a valuable document to have. Fortunately in the modern era of technological advancements online, estate planning online is a convenient and cheap alternative to expensive lawyers.
Here are the five steps required to help you save money creating an online will while avoiding the pricey hourly rates of lawyers.
Step 1: Understand What Is Online Estate Planning
Estate planning involves much more than just deciding how assets are distributed. When someone passes, the sad reality is they may be leaving behind children or a spouse with unique needs.
Taking advantage of one of the many online will maker software on the market handles all aspects of the estate planning process. Now, you may be wondering how such an important document can be created online.
The answer is simple: many online estate planning companies were created by lawyers or legal experts. A lot of company founders worked in the field but realized there is an unmet need in the market as online estate planning offers a more convenient option at a lower cost.
From a legal perspective, an online will can be just as valid as one that is produced by a lawyer. There may be the caveat that users of online estate planning software have to educate themselves about local rules and regulations to ensure the final documents are legal in the eyes of the law.
Some states dictate that in order for an online will to be considered valid it has to be signed by a witness. In other regions, the law may vary and dictate that a witness has to be present during the creation of the will before it can become a legal document.
Step 2: Understand The Different Types Of Documents Available
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to estate planning and each individual will need to take some time to understand the different types of documents that are available. Typically, the most common forms of legal documents that online will software companies offer include:
- Last Will: An estate planning document that dictates how a deceased person’s property and assets will be divided up.
- Living Trust: A document that appoints a trustee to manage a living person’s assets.
- Living Will: A document that includes potential medical decisions, including organ donation and what medical treatments should be avoided to prolong life.
- Financial Power of Attorney: A document that gives another individual legal authority to make financial decisions.
- Medical Power of Attorney: A document that grants someone else the right to make future medical decisions if a sick person is unable to do so.
While these are the most common types of documents that are created using online estate planning software, the list is far from complete. In fact, there are hundreds of different documents that are designed to address very specific needs.
Step 3: Decide If Online Estate Planning Is Right For You
For the vast majority of people, an online will is a superior option compared to overpriced lawyers. But there are some exceptions to this general rule, especially among those with complicated asset structures, such as overseas business interests.
Typically, high net worth individuals should opt for the services of a team of lawyers, accountants, and other experts. A wide range of expertise is needed to create an estate plan that minimizes tax obligations, ensures smooth transition of business continuation, or manages trust funds for children.
For more than 99.9% of the population, these services are not required. In fact, even wealthier individuals with assets north of $1 million can still get superior value out of an online will.
Step 4: Consider The Many Options Available
The online will space has expanded in recent years and now consumers have more choices than ever in selecting an online estate planning company. The general consensus among experts in the field and online review platforms cites two companies as industry leaders: Nolo and Trust & Will.
Both are highly reputable options and pricing starts at under $100 but will rise depending on additional features. On the cheaper end of the spectrum is Rocket Lawyer which starts at $39.99 a month. Rocket Lawyer stands out among the competition as it offers a free seven-day trial.
There are more affordable options in the market, such as US Legal Wills that charge a fixed fee of $19.95 per document. This might be the cheapest option if an individual knows exactly what forms they will require as part of the estate planning process.
The Final Step: Do Your Research
Online estate planning software is cheap because it is essentially a do-it-yourself system. There might be a time throughout the process where someone has a question or is confused with the process.
In some cases, the online estate planning provider offers access to an expert at no additional fee while in other cases the user will need to research for information on their own.
Thankfully, it is hard to imagine any scenario in which the internet isn’t a great source of information and guidance. This certainly holds true for creating online wills as one can easily find the necessary resources that would bring them up to speed with local laws and regulations.
-In Collaboration with MarketAcross.com