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Who will take care of your children if you and your spouse meet an unexpected demise? What will happen to your assets, like your home, savings, family heirlooms and investments? No one wants to think about end-of-life issues, but it’s up to you to protect your family the way you see fit; otherwise you’re taking a huge risk. If you die without a will, the state will step in to settle everything from child custody to the distribution of your assets, and may do so in a way that’s not what you would have wanted. If you don’t have a will, you should — and it’s not as daunting a task as you might think.
Did you know that you’re not required to have a lawyer draw up your will? Hiring an attorney will run you anywhere from $300 to $1,000 or more. But for less than $80 in most cases, you can create your own will using an online will maker or will maker software. It’s an excellent option if you don’t have a complicated estate — and a do-it-yourself will can take as little as 15 minutes to create. We’ll first explore the basics of a will and then give you our recommendations for the best online will maker based on our research.
What’s Involved in Creating a Will?
There are no set standards about creating a will, but most wills include the following clauses. Consider all of these factors before you start your DIY will.
- Funeral expenses and payment of debt
- Gifts of personal property, including bank accounts, insurance policies, stocks and bonds, your car and all household property (specify who is to receive each valuable item)
- Gifts of real estate, including your family home and any other real estate you own
- Appoint an executor and spell out what powers he or she will have (i.e. selling your home, executing tax strategies, etc.)
- A residuary clause that distributes assets that you didn’t anticipate owning
What Else Do You Need to Consider?
State Laws. Although you don’t have to hire an attorney to create your will, one of the most important things you need to keep in mind if you’re considering online wills is that laws vary from state to state. While the best online will makers ensure that your will abides by your state’s regulations, not all online wills have this feature. If you’re choosing an online will maker that doesn’t take state law into account, you need to make sure that you’re aware of your state’s estate planning and probate regulations; otherwise your will may not be valid.
Best wills online
There are dozens of online will makers, but we’ve done our homework to give you our best recommendations. The first three are online services while the fourth is a software option.
LegalZoom is the best online will maker you’ll find. Why? Their prices are reasonable, you get access to their support staff as well as excellent resources on their website and their will template is one of the easiest to use and understand due to its interview format. You won’t have to worry about your state’s laws — they tailor their documents for each state’s requirements. LegalZoom is also an excellent source for a variety of other legal documents, including those for starting and running a business and a number of personal and family needs.
- Basic last will package: $69
- Comprehensive last will package: $79
- Estate planning bundle: starts at $149
Rocket Lawyer Review
Rocket Lawyer is another great online will maker that has a ton of resources on its website. You get step-by-step instructions as you complete your will, and their online software is intuitive and easy to use. You’ll get everything you need to create a last will and testament (including compliance with state laws), and new customers get one legal document free. Rocket Lawyer is worth looking into if you need multiple legal documents, including those for your business and other personal needs.
- Legal document: prices vary
US Legal Wills Review
US Legal Wills is one of the most affordable options for creating an online will, although the process of creating your document isn’t as seamless as LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer. US Legal Wills also offers other estate planning related documents (for added fees), including power of attorney and a living will.
Last will and testament: $34.95
Best Will Maker Software: Quicken WillMaker Plus 2016
If you prefer to have software in hand, Quicken WillMaker Plus by Nolo is your best option. WillMaker Plus is Windows-based software that allows you to create a customized estate plan, including a will, healthcare directive, durable power of attorney for finances and other essential documents. Not only do all documents abide by your state’s laws, you also get a free one-year subscription to Nolo’s Online Living Trust (a $59 value). And you’ll get free legal updates throughout 2016.
What Do Legal Experts Advise?
Check out this news interview with a University of New Mexico law professor about creating a will.
Why Wait on Creating a Will?
If you don’t have a will, you’re not alone. According to a 2014 Rocket Lawyer survey, 51% of Americans aged 55 to 64 haven’t drafted a will. And an alarming 62% of Americans aged 45 to 54 haven’t either. Most financial and legal experts stress the importance of creating a will, but many people still perceive it as an expensive and cumbersome undertaking. We hope this article and our recommendations dispel some of that doubt. Creating a will on your own can be an easy and inexpensive process. And, ultimately, your family will thank you for it.
Which software or online will maker do you recommend?