We all recognize the importance of planning ahead, especially regarding our finances and assets. Unfortunately, many of us drag our feet in actually doing it.
One of the places this is most commonly seen is with our last wishes. In fact, only four out of every 10 American adults currently have a last will and testament in place. That leaves 60% of us unprepared for what will happen to our assets after we die.
I’ll be honest: I also put off creating a will for years, because the thought of sitting down to do it seemed so daunting. However, if something unexpected had happened to me, I worry about what would have become of my children, assets, and life insurance proceeds.
Related: DR Podcast 297: The Blue Binder – How to Create a Financial Binder
Thankfully, I finally forced myself to sit down and create a legal will early last year. This document will protect my children and my financial assets when I’m gone, and honestly? It was much easier (and cheaper) to do than I ever expected.
Why You Need a Will
Creating a last will and testament is a crucial part of your financial planning journey. This document lays out your exact wishes regarding your assets and how you want them to be managed after you’re gone.
Without a will, your legacy (and assets) will be left to the management of those you leave behind. For some of you, this might work out just fine. Your loved ones may have no problem following through on your wishes, sharing assets evenly, and ensuring that the causes you were passionate about are remembered.
For many of us, though, passing away without a will and testament is a recipe for disaster. It could mean minor disputes and challenges, or full-blown court battles over the assets you leave behind.
Creating your very first will can be overwhelming, of course. You may not know where to start, what to specify, or how to ensure that nothing is left out. You might even be worried about the expense involved, or whether you need a lawyer to create your will for you.
That’s precisely why we created this article. Below, you’ll find a number of excellent companies ready to help you step-by-step through the process of creating a last will. You’re sure to find one that works great for you, whether you’re a newbie who doesn’t know where to begin, someone who has simple and straightforward assets, or if your situation is a bit more complex.
The Best Online Will-Makers Websites
Let’s take a look at some of the best online will-maker websites, and why each might be right for you.
Easiest for Beginners: LegalZoom
Tens of thousands trust LegalZoom to help them form corporations, register copyrights, apply for trademarks, and more each year. But did you know that you can also use this online company to easily create your last will and testament?
With packages starting at just $69, LegalZoom is also affordable. You can trust their products--which are researched by real lawyers and backed by a $50,000 Peace of Mind guarantee--and your information is always secure.
All three packages come with:
- A Last Will (which includes general provisions, advanced provisions, statement of interment, self-proving affidavit, property worksheet, signing and other instructional guides)
- The $50,000 Peace of Mind guarantee
- Digital download of your completed Last Will
- Industry-leading security and information protection
If you want to bump up your package, you can. For example, while the Basic and Comprehensive packages allow for up to 30 days of digital revisions, the Bundle package gives you a year.
You’ll also get a free trial of Legal Advantage Plus with the higher two tiers (14-day and one-year trials, respectively). This feature helps you develop a personal legal plan, complete with phone consults with independent attorneys, free estate planning apps, and attorney reviews of all LegalZoom-completed documents.
LegalZoom’s U.S.-based customer service is also available to answer your questions. You can reach them anytime via email, or Monday through Friday by phone. If you take advantage of the Legal Advantage Plus trial (or membership), you can also ask your questions over a 30-minute call with a licensed attorney.
Best If You Don’t Want to Pay: FreeWill
Supported by a number of non-profit organizations, FreeWill was created to help consumers plan for the future. They offer entirely-free Last Will creation from start to finish, helping you to designate executors, distribute assets, give funeral directions, and more.
The online process is quick and easy, and they will walk you through every step. You’ll be able to notate any charitable giving or gifts, as well as designate minors for your children. Don’t know what non-contest clauses, self-proving affidavits, or digital asset distributions are? Don’t worry--FreeWill will help.
You’ll be asked for your name, email address, date of birth, address, and gender. You’ll also need to let FreeWill know whether this is your first Living Will, if you have any kids, and even whether you have pets that you want to provide for in your last wishes.
Lastly, FreeWill can help you create your Living Will. This advanced directive will let everyone know your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical care.
While FreeWill does help walk you through a number of sections that can be added to your will, it still isn’t for everyone. If you have a large or complex estate, you will want to consult with an attorney instead.
FreeWill can still help, though--simply use their site to determine what you will likely need and your preferences, and FreeWill will give you a printable summary that you can take to your lawyer’s office. This document will save you time (and therefore, money) when working with your attorney later on.
Best for the Confident DIYer: Do Your Own Will
We think so, especially if you use a trusted company like Do Your Own Will.
With Do Your Own Will, you’ll have access to a free platform designed to help you take charge of your Last Will and Testament creation. According to the company’s website, most adults will be able to use their platform without problem as long as their assets are less than the federal threshold for estate taxes (currently $11.4 million for deaths in 2019).
You don’t need a credit card or even to create an account in order to use DYOW. All you need is to answer a few questions, and then save or print your completed PDF will.
Best Will On-the-Go: Willing
These days, we do everything on our smartphones or tablets, from transferring funds to ordering groceries and checking our security cameras. But creating a will?
It’s only been the last few years that you could create your own Living Will online. Now, though, you can do it from your smartphone or tablet, making it possible for anyone to plan for the future even while waiting to get your oil changed! And Willing makes it easier than ever.
For only $69, you can create a legal will that will protect your assets, children, and last wishes. Their step-by-step guide makes it easy even for beginners, and if you need help, Willing is there with personal guidance.
Their checklists ensure that your will is customized for your specific state, as certain laws may vary. You can create your will for free, too--you only have to pay when you are ready to print and sign.
They also have an extensive learning center on their website. There, you’ll find the answers to many of your estate-planning questions, including creating and changing your will, how to pick a beneficiary, and the legal requirements of your will.
Best for Those Who Prefer to Download Software: Quicken WillMaker Plus
Quicken is a trusted name in taxes and accounting, but did you know they can also walk you through creating a will (as well as many other estate-planning tasks) with their software? Quicken WillMaker Plus is touted as America’s #1 Estate Planning Software, and provides users with an easy platform for planning--and writing--their Living Will.
Their team of lawyer-editors ensures that each will document you create is state-compliant, and the platform allows you to create your will on your own time, at your own pace.
With Quicken WillMaker Plus, you can create a customized estate plan, to include things such as your:
- Living will
- Living trust
- Health care directive
- Financial power of attorney (POA)
- Self-proving affidavits
Their online WillMaker Document Quiz is a fast, easy way to determine exactly which documents you need in order to complete your Last Will. This is important as you may need different provisions for different stages of life--such as accounting for pets or small children, or including a spouse in your will when you are married.
With WillMaker Plus 2021, you’ll be able to create even more than just your will, though. The software allows you to draw up documents such as:
- Authorization for International Travel with Minor
- Authorization for Minors Medical Treatment
- Authorization to Drive a Motor Vehicle
- General Bill of Sale
- Security Agreement for Borrowing Money
- Limited POA for Finances
- Affidavit of Domicile
- Employee Death Benefits Letter
- Executors Letter to Financial Institution
- Subscription or Membership Cancellation form
- Temporary Guardianship
- Authorization for Care of Minor
- and many more!
No matter which online (or in-person) service you use to create your Last Will, it’s just important that you do indeed create one. There are many ways to make this as quick and budget-friendly as possible. However, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that you create a legal document that protects your children, spouse, pets, and estate in the event of your death.
The online services here are a great place to start, especially if you are creating a simple or first will. If your situation is particularly complex--or you have a large estate to account for--consulting with an attorney may be your best bet.