Are Online Wills Valid?

These days, you can get anything online — even a will. But are online wills valid? The answer is that they can be valid. However, they may not be enough for your needs. Wills are meant to handle serious issues and usually should be created with the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney. 

Problems With Online Wills

Online wills are technically valid. However, any type of DIY legal work should be generally avoided, especially estate planning and will creation. Too much is at stake to forgo the guidance and counsel of an experienced estate planning lawyer, and too many problems can and frequently do occur with DIY online wills. 

Improper Language

Law is about precise language and terms. Online wills begin as generic templates that require users to fill in the blanks. However, the degree of specificity needed is often lacking in many contexts because users simply are not experienced in will creation.

A vague or confusing will can lead to a variety of unintended consequences, including:

  • Invalidation of the will
  • Assets going to the wrong beneficiary
  • Unforeseen tax liabilities
  • Unclear provisions for the care of children

Additionally, the use of unsatisfactory legal language increases the risk of will disputes later down the line. Proper, professional will drafting, on the other hand, avoids disputes and other pitfalls. Although online wills often come with kits and instructions, they can never take the place of an experienced wills and trusts attorney. 

Probate Confusion

If you use a will in your estate plan, your estate must go through probate after you pass away. Probate is a bulky legal process during which a judge tests the validity of the will. Online wills are insufficient in helping most people understand the significance and the procedures involved in probate. 

For instance, numerous estate assets do not go through probate. They include:

  • Trust assets
  • Jointly owned assets
  • Pay-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death accounts
  • Life insurance benefits
  • Retirement accounts

These and other assets should not be named in a will but should have pre-named beneficiaries within other legal documents. However, many who use online wills do not understand the distinction between probate and non-probate assets and include non-probate assets in their will.

For example, you may name your son as the beneficiary of your IRA account but then name your daughter as the beneficiary of the policy in an online will later down the line. Although the law is clear that the son will inherit the account, the risk of daily discord is high.

An experienced estate planning attorney will prevent this and other issues from occurring during the creation of your will. They have a large-picture view of estate planning and view every action in the context of a larger whole. 

Lack of Sufficient Guidance on Important Matters

Besides planning how to distribute your assets, will creation is a way to protect your hard-earned property from avoidable tax liabilities. There are many ways to become subject to taxation, and there are many ways to avoid it. Estate planning attorneys help their clients steer clear of thousands to millions in tax liabilities and months or even years of probate.

Child-rearing matters may also be dealt with in wills. Having the guidance of a seasoned attorney will help ensure that your wishes for your loved ones are properly memorialized in your final document. 

Protect the Future of Your Loved Ones

Estate planning involves important decisions that deserve to be informed by personalized guidance and counsel. Online wills provide neither of these. For help protecting your valuable assets and the people you love, contact OC Wills & Trust Attorneys in Orange County today. It’s never too late to plan ahead.