Advantages and Disadvantages of Doing Wills Online

By Anna Assad

You can privately prepare your will online through a will preparation website, but whether or not online will drafting is right for you depends on your financial and personal circumstances. An attorney may be needed to prepare your will and review the document for accuracy and compliance with your state's legal standards, especially if you are providing for the guardianship of minor children.

Less Costly

The fees for an attorney to draft your will for you vary by the complexity of your estate, your family composition and your area of residence. They can run into hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Will-making software and online services cost as little as $20, according to Tara Siegel Bernard of The New York Times. Some companies offer a review of your will by an attorney in your state for an additional fee.

Errors and Exclusions Not Caught

Online will programs generally offer user instructions and definitions of legal terms used in the will, but the forms and glossary may still be confusing to someone without legal knowledge. A mistake may result in a beneficiary getting a larger or smaller portion of your estate than you intended. If you accidentally exclude a person from your will, she may not get anything after your death. An attorney reviews your list of will beneficiaries and the corresponding shares to make sure your will accurately represents your decisions. Unlike a program, an attorney can ask you in-depth questions to clarify your directions. Omitting one of your legal heirs in your will on purpose may require the use of additional wording in your state, which your attorney can supply for you. Your attorney can identify whom your legal heirs are if you are unsure about your state's succession laws.

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Convenient Access and Updating

You may prepare your will online from the convenience of your home or office instead of having to make an appointment at an attorney's office. Any updates you wish to make to an attorney-drafted will traditionally require another meeting, but you can access your online will at any time through most services. Some services offer a one-time free update of your will or provide you with access to update for a fee.

Possibility of Improper Execution

Your will must be executed in accordance with the standards dictated by your state's laws. A will that is not properly executed is not acceptable for probate, the legal proceedings used to validate the will and settle your estate. An online service helps you prepare the will and typically gives execution instructions, but if you misinterpret the instructions, fail to follow through or use standards that do not apply in your state, the will may be invalid. An attorney verifies your will has been properly signed and witnessed upon completion.

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Illinois Laws on Wills

A valid will can nominate someone to manage your estate and detail how your property should be distributed when you die. In Illinois, wills must comply with the Illinois Compiled Statutes, which address requirements such as the age and mental condition of the person making the will. If your will doesn't meet these requirements, it may be declared invalid, and your estate will be distributed according to state law.

Is a Hand-Written Notarized Will Legal?

Your will can direct the distribution of your property after your death, name someone you trust to manage your estate and even nominate a guardian for your minor children. But your will can't do any of that if it isn't valid in your state. Generally, a handwritten will is just as legally valid as a typed or printed will as long as it meets your state's standards.

Is It Illegal to Copy Last Will & Testament Papers?

As long as you have the right to use the copy machine, no penalties attach to copying your last will and testament. In fact, it may be prudent for someone making a will to provide a copy of the document to her spouse, attorney and the person she names as executor. In most cases, however, the original will, not a copy, must be filed with the court for probate.

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