As an estate planning attorney, I cannot count the number of times I’ve been asked about DIY online wills… and quite understandably so. Just a quick search on the web and you’d see how much of these DIY estate planning services are being offered around!
It’s being marketed as an easy, convenient, and cost-effective way of drafting your will… but is it really?
Let’s answer and zero in on this in today’s blog!
First, the pros.
Regardless of the company or service provider, these DIY online will kits all have the same marketing points and appealing aspects. Here are the most common –
All you need is an internet-connected device, and you’re basically good to go! Unlike in some cases where you’re required to be face-to-face with an estate planning attorney to get the job done, in a DIY online will maker, you just have to be… well, online!
Emphasis on “some,” though!! Not all estate planning lawyers conduct their dealings physically. Remember our talk on virtual estate planning services? Uh-huh–we can kick off your estate plan and do everything virtually, too! So yeah… accessibility? It most certainly isn’t exclusive to DIY online will kits and services. ;)
It’s quick to put together.
In connection with the first point, because these online will kits allow individuals to draft a will with just a few keys and clicks, it takes very little time to write and wrap up. Imagine–you just gotta key in your particulars, choose from a few drop-down options, click here and there, and ta-da!! You got yourself a will!
What they don’t tell you–much of the reason for its ease and expedience is the fact that most of these online services only cater to simple families and estates. Reality is, however, not all circumstances are uncomplicated. In fact, yours might not be. Come from a blended family? Have a charity in mind you want to give to? Own properties in different states? These are scenarios that you would have to consider in drafting your will, but would not be easily addressed, if at all, in DIY online wills. And when you do try to have these addressed in a mere online will-drafting portal with not any personal and professional assistance, this wouldn’t be as quick as advertised, naturally.
It saves money—during the will-writing process, at least.
I’ve even seen websites that offer their services for free!? What a deal.
What makes this the cheaper option is the fact that you don’t have to hire an estate planning lawyer who will grease the wheels and essentially do the job for you. During the will-writing process, you don’t have to shoulder anyone’s professional fees because, again, it’s a “me, myself, and I” kind of thing. Much like in any DIY project, you save on cash for having to do the labor yourself.
Again, emphasis on “during the will-writing process.” It’s undoubtedly cheaper during drafting, but the same cannot be guaranteed moving forward. In fact, because you didn’t engage the services of an estate planning professional during the drafting process, you may have to face issues later on that may likely entail shelling out even more moolah… (yikes.)
Now, the cons.
With that, it’s time to discuss the drawbacks. I’ve already touched on them above, but just to elaborate a little bit further on why you should reconsider DIY online wills…
It’s often too simple to address complexities.
As mentioned above, online DIY wills usually fail to address complex familial situations, peculiar beneficiary designations, large estates, and so forth. This is because online wills are meant to accommodate simple circumstances and straightforward testamentary provisions only. They’re your basic and standard fill-out forms, after all.
This poses an issue because remember—no two situations are the same when it comes to drafting a will, much less an entire estate plan. You need a will that’s personalized–one that reflects your particular circumstances and communicates your specific preferences… Basically, you need a will that’s you. Simple just won’t cut it.
It may fail to meet basic legal requirements.
It bears stressing that a will is a legal document. It isn’t just some diary entry that speaks your thoughts and desires about your properties and intended beneficiaries–it’s much more than that. In particular, a will is a document that is subject to the applicable laws on inheritance, wills, and estates; non-compliance may lead to it being declared invalid. Yup, these legal requirements are pretty stringent!
Given this, it can’t be denied that proper legal guidance is a must when it comes to will-writing, especially for those who aren’t well versed in the law. Otherwise, particularly in online DIY wills, you run the risk of rendering your will invalid–or putting your time and labor to waste, basically.
It’s prone to omissions and loopholes.
In relation to the previous point, given that a DIY online will doesn’t include attorney advice, it’s highly likely that the finished document would miss out on significant details and certain formalities… things that lawyers, as the detail-oriented beings as they are, wouldn’t otherwise leave out.
Aside from these, you also miss out on important pre- and post-writing consultations: what comprises your estate, how to choose your executor, what to consider for probate, how to update your plan, and so forth. These are all undoubtedly necessary to ensure that you write the perfect will (compliant with the laws and all), but none of which you get in availing of a DIY online will kit or service.
But before you think that I'm ANTI-online wills, let me share something: a DIY will is absolutely better than no will. At least then there is a chance that your loved ones have guidance for when you're gone. Estate planning is IMPORTANT, and if the only way that happens for you is with an online will company, so be it.
If you want some support to get started with your will (with proper legal assistance, that is!), or if you got a DIY will you want to have checked or discussed with an expert, I got you!