The internet companies that sell the online or electronic creation of legal documents, and especially of wills and testaments, market the ease and money-saving features of doing it yourself because they are taking advantage of the fact that more than 60% of U.S. adults do not have a will.
In 2019, The Balance, an online magazine giving personal financial advice, published a list of online services for creating wills, and after analyzing the different categories created by their own collaborators, among which doesn’t appear to be an attorney, selected what they considered to be the 8 best online will-making services.
- Quicken WillMaker Plus
- Rocket Lawyer
- Law Depot
- Do Your Own Will
- US Legal Wills
Some of you may be asking yourselves why am I publishing available online resources that directly compete with the services of an attorney, and the reason is very simple. Surely some of you, or someone you know, has the need to create his own will or legal document because they do not have a great need, or because they do not want, or do not have the time, to visit with an attorney, they do not want to spend money on an attorney, or they just want to do it themselves. This is a specific type of consumer who needs and want these services.
In our particular case, these persons or consumers are not in our radar, given that the majority of the wills and succession strategies that we prepare are plans and documents that require a lot of detail and a high level of service, and above all, the insight and watchful eye of an expert attorney on the subject which the clients for these online services do not receive or are even offered to them.
For instance, every day the courts around the country handle cases where the testator prepared his own will, with or without the help of an online service, where the assets to be inherited have not been included with enough detail which allows the different heirs to claim equal rights over a specific asset, or on the other hand, the assets may have been sufficiently described but not all of the testator’s assets were included and there is no residuary clause, or there is also the possibility for some party to elect to receive or buy some property and in doing so, this person only elects to receive or buy the most valuable portion of such property, etc. These are just a few examples of the great many problems that these consumers do not appreciate when they are thinking of creating the will themselves or using one of these online services. These programs cannot make any recommendation to their clients because they are not in the business of practicing law, unless the consumer hires an attorney associated with such service, for an extra fee of course, which defeats the original purpose of going to an online service.
What These Programs Do
On the other hand, we must point out some of the most frequent and common situations in which these programs can help a consumer. These services allow the testators to decide what they want to do with their assets and children when they die. For example, a testator can determine how to distribute his assets instead of leaving it to local law, they can designate the persons they want to be guardians of their minor or incapacitated children, and they can appoint the person to act as executor of their estate. However, they will hardly be able to determine or specify the way in which the guardian must act, or the actions that their executor must take. Also, testators will most likely not know that they can easily determine the way in which they want their assets to be divided or used by two or more persons, etc.
What These Programs Don’t Do
While it is true that these online services or programs are attractive to many consumers because they have the latest technology, they are easy to use and are inexpensive, the reality is that these programs work based on generic questionnaires focused on doing only three things, to wit: what assets are to be distributed, the appointment of guardians, and the designation of an executor. Beyond these three main objectives, any variants that come up or that a testator would like to introduce, the consumer will most likely be forced to hire the services of an attorney, whether within the service’s network, or an outside independent attorney.
If the needs of the consumer exceed these three objectives, or the testator wishes to be personally guided by an attorney, that he is asked pertinent questions, is presented with appropriate hypotheticals, is offered alternatives based on his own personal and family situation, or the value of his assets is substantial, the only solution will be to hire an expert attorney.
If you have any questions or concerns, or if you have not made or revised your will in the last three years, call us at (800) 694-6604 to schedule an appointment with any of our attorneys.