Free Last Will and Testament forms

We’ve seen a number of these recently; the “free” or the $5 Last Will and Testament. In fact, I’ll offer you one right here; a Free Last Will and Testament form . But be warned, it’s an absolute piece of garbage and will probably cause more problems for your family and loved ones than not creating one at all.

The market is becoming crowded for online Will services.

At www.legalwills.ca , www.uslegalwills.com and www.legalwills.co.uk we charge $34.95 and  £24.95. We do this because we have worked with top legal teams in Canada, the US and UK to create our services. We have a support team in place who can help users step through the process and we have professional affiliations. We also stand by our services as top quality, legal, affordable alternatives to seeking legal advice. We know that our service is not appropriate for everybody, and we often recommend that some people with complicated situations not use our service and instead seek legal advice.

So what does a $5 Last Will and Testament give you? Some websites operate like the Giant Tiger of legal forms; they have hundreds or thousands of downloadable PDF’s which probably will not work for you; there will be no alternate provisions, help text, support, residual beneficiaries, minor trusts, and it is quite possible that you will write something in your Will that is simply not legally permitted e.g. disinheriting dependents. But a $5 Will company does not care about this.

I’m actually surprised by the quality of many online sites that claim to have been created by lawyers. They obviously have no concerns that a large number of people will use their service thinking that they have a legal Will, when many will be legally invalid. I’m not sure how the law societies will feel about the quality of product being created by these lawyers. Sadly, we cannot compete on price with a downloadable pdf form. But we do feel good about our service and know that quality legal documents have been created by tens of thousands of people.

Many articles talk about the dangers of preparing your own Will, and it is really the cheap, daily discount Wills that are being dismissed in these articles. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to discern a quality online service and a poor one. Look for services that are interactive (not downloadable blank forms), have been in place for a while, have online help with phone and email support, and a service that generates a final document that runs at least 4-5 pages. If it doesn’t, then it has not included all of the clauses that should be in a basic Will. I wish I could just list services that you should not use, but that is probably a bad idea.

Advertisements

More reasons to write your own Will

It seems that Forbes publish an article almost every month warning people against preparing their own Will. The latest was a couple of weeks ago entitled 5 Reasons to get Professional Help Writing your Will.

Once again, we will deconstruct the arguments and explain why many people are more than capable of preparing their own Will. Remember, everybody has a right to prepare their own Will and there is nothing that a lawyer can do to make a Will more legal. You go to a lawyer if you need legal advice, there is no legal requirement to use professional help to prepare your own Last Will and Testament. So let’s look at the arguments;

1.    Attorney costs are minimal

I suppose this really depends on your definition of “minimal”. The article explains that an attorney may cost as little as $1000, which could be a “mere 1%” of the value of your estate. Here lies the problem. $1,000 is a heck of a lot of money to pay for something that is drafted in a few minutes by a computer program. Don’t have the mistaken belief that a lawyer will carefully draft your Will starting with a blank piece of paper. They plug your details into a computer program that generates a Will. In fact, it’s a remarkably similar process than the one we use at www.legalwills.ca, www.legalwills.co.uk and www.uslegalwills.com . Except we charge $34.95 and £24.95. If you think that $1,000 isn’t a lot of money, then by all means go and pay for a lawyer, but for the rest of us, an online tool can be equally effective and more affordable.

2.   A Will must be error free

This is true, and the example that is always given is that the document must be signed in the presence of two witnesses that are not beneficiaries in the Will. This is correct, and we reiterate this point throughout our service. Yes, you have to sign the document in the presence of two witnesses. If you can do this, your document will have been signed appropriately and legally. The other examples that the article uses to illustrate the point are a little odd; it claims that people forget to update their Will. This is always one of our main arguments for using an online service. You can update your document at any time no matter how trivial the change may be. If you use a professional, you may be faced with that $1,000 fee every time you return to make a change. Forgetting to update your Will is not specific to preparing one’s own Will and is in fact far more likely to be an issue for anybody who sought professional help in preparing the original document.

3.    Vague Wording Used in a Will May Cause Confusion

This is definitely an important point for anybody considering writing their own Will starting with a blank form or blank Will kit. But the DIY Will service has progressed a little over the last decade. The article claims that “An attorney will use standard language that doesn’t equivocate”. Well guess what; so does an online interactive software program. In fact, it uses the exact same language that the attorney will use.

4.     Your Assumptions for Writing a Will Are Likely Incorrect

The example given to illustrate this point is “If you will property to an heir, what happens if you outlive that heir?”. Oh dear, this is called an alternate plan or alternate provision. It is built into any service and our service at LegalWills does not allow any bequest to be made without there being an alternate plan and a residual beneficiary. Many online services may not have this, but quality services will have this built in.

5.   A Handwritten Will May Be Considered Invalid

Absolutely correct, but again, nothing to do with using an online service like the one at LegalWills. You are not handwriting your Will, you are using interactive software to create your Will and the final product is as legally valid as a document created by a legal professional.
There are some awful Will kits out there, but just because there are poor, cheap downloadable forms, it does not mean that the decision to create your own Will is a bad one.
The lists created by legal professionals often do not bear scrutiny and this latest list from Forbes has not relevance to a service like ours at LegalWills.