How to ensure your free online Will meets all the standards set by the courts

How to ensure your free online Will meets all the standards set by the courts

How to ensure your free online Will meets all the standards set by the courts

Wills are important as they not only ensure your assets are distributed as you want them to be but they also ensure that your loved ones are taken care of after your death. Technology has brought about so many changes in the past few years, sweeping up everything in its path, and will writing is no different. You no longer need the services of a lawyer to draw up a will these days. Instead, there are now online services that allow you to create your own will.

How do free will services work?

Free wills services differ from platform to platform. There are certain sites that simply ask you a series of questions. The answers you provide to the questions will then be inserted into a ready-made will writing template.

There are other services that provide online will forms that you can fill without additional legal guidance. There is also downloadable software you can access to guide you as you fill the online forms. Almost every free will kit comes with a workbook that guides you step-by-step as you complete your will.

Deciding whether you should use an online will or employ the services of an estate planning lawyer.

If your assets are worth less than the estate tax limits set by the government, you can seriously consider making a free online will. You can also do this if you have a straightforward, problem-free estate.

However, if your estate could be subject to estate tax, you might want to consult with a lawyer. You might also want to do so if you think there is a likelihood of someone contesting your will after your death. Similarly, if there are issues such as remarriage, stepchildren, a family business or the presence of properties in different countries amongst other issues that can cause problems, then you should also seek legal counsel.

Advantages of having an online will

With online wills, you can have your will quickly be drafted, completed and in your hands in no time at all. This is opposed to the days, sometimes weeks, which you have to wait if the will is being drawn by a lawyer.

Privacy is another advantage online will offer. Making your will yourself may make you feel more at ease as opposed to involving someone else in your personal and financial matters. There is a clause though; know that wills are filed with the local probate court and will eventually become public knowledge.

But, if you want complete privacy, you should consider having a living trust. A living trust is a legal document that states who you want to be the executor of your will after your passing. After you sign this, you transfer ownership of your assets into the trust. With a living trust, your assets can be managed and distributed without having to go through the probate court. By doing this, you can be sure that your personal details will remain private.

Ensuring your free online will meets the standards set by the court

Remember that the laws concerning will vary greatly from place to place. This means any online will service you are going to use should have forms and templates that are specific to your country. This helps ensure that the final result will be compliant with the relevant laws.

As long as it complies with the relevant laws, an online will has the same legal holding as one created by a lawyer. Although the process for making a will legal can be slightly different depending on your locality, there are some features that are general to all:

You, the testator, must be at least 18 years old at the time of writing the will.

You must also have testamentary capacity to sign the will. Testamentary capacity simply means that at the time of writing the will, the testator was of a sound mind and was aware of what they were doing.

You must voluntarily enter into and sign the will free of force, duress, threats and/or coercion of any nature.

There should be a testamentary intent. Testamentary intent means that the entire content of the will, as at the time of execution, is that which was expressly intended by the testator and that there was no external influence applied. An opening statement like “I, Tom Harry, do hereby declare this instrument to be my last will and testament”, can be enough to show testamentary intent.

The body of the will should contain:

a.The names of the individuals who are to inherit their assets. If you are excluding anyone who should normally be in the will (a spouse or a child), make sure to include a statement to show that.
b.The name of the guardian to take over the care of your minor children if you have any.
c.A list of assets and the instructions concerning their disposition. There should be caveats, where applicable. For instance, if you were in a business partnership with someone, following your death, the business may pass on to the surviving owner.
d.The name of the executor. Your spouse, an older child, a trusted friend or associate or a relative can be your executor. If you have complicated affairs, you might want to name a legal counsel as your executor. You can also have joint executors who must be named in the will.
If there are outstanding debts, it is important that your will empowers your executor(s) to pay your bills and deal with debt collectors. Make sure your will expressly states this.
e.The will must contain a statement proving that it is your “last will and testament”. The date and place of signing and the fact that you signed it before witnesses who also signed and watched each other sign in your presence, must also be expressly stated.

Remember that your will is a living document. As such, don’t just create it and forget it. Since events like births, deaths, marriages, divorce, loss or acquisition of assets and the growth of those previously regarded as “minors” can occur, your wishes concerning the distribution of your assets might change. Make sure to revisit your will from time to time. Keep in mind that the only version of your will that matters is the most up to date one before your death.