It seems that the will and testament in California is trending. During and since the global COVID-19 pandemic, more and more Californians have begun making their last will and testaments. Whilst this mania for wills in California could easily have meant a bumper-bonanza-payday for lawyers and professional estate planners, it seems that the trend is shifting towards online will makers with some of California’s best online will sites reporting record numbers of new customers. However, a lot of these sites simply issue downloading templates and this has caused some critics to question the efficacy, the value for money and above all the legality of the service. In this post we will take a closer look at online will makers in California.
Making A Last Will and Testament in California
A Will (or a last will and testament) is a document that an individual creates during their lifetime setting out their final wishes. The primary function of a will is that it allows the deceased to set out in a legally binding written format, how they wish their estate to be dealt with.
Will’s usually contain details and instructions regarding the bequeathing of worldly possessions and assets such as the deceased person’s house, savings, personal possessions and even pets.
It is common to engage the services of a lawyer or estate planner when drafting a will. Doing so ensures that the document is correctly structured, formatted and excited and it also ensures that a copy of the Will is trusted with a reliable, professional person.
Furthermore, using a lawyer to draft a will also ensures that the individual making the will is given legal advice regarding the implications of their will and any possible contestations that may happen after their death. Using a professional Will Maker also helps to ensure that no details are overlooked such as the combinations to safety deposit boxes.
How Online Willmakers Work
The main advantage of Online Wills is that they dispense with the need to engage a lawyer so can be drafted quicker and cheaper than via the usual route. The standard operating model for an online will is that users sign up to a website, pay a fee, and then download a set will template.
Are Online Wills Legal?
Online wills are perfectly legal in all US states as long as the user correctly fills the document out, prints a paper copy of and signs it. Basically there is no real difference between a Will drafted online or one drafted in a lawyers office. Just remember that in the state of California a Will has to be kept in a physical format in order to be considered legally binding.
It is worth bearing in mind that often, even a highly paid lawyer will simply be following a set template and billing their client generously for it. This leads nicely on to our next consideration.
Are Online Wills Good Value?
Advocates of online will makers are quick to allege that paying a lawyer to draft a will is paying money for old rope. As stated above, often they simply follow a template themselves and do not need to deviate from it. Therefore an online will can represent excellent value.
That said, online wills do now allow the person making it to receive any legal, or personal advice. For example, an individual with a particularly complex or high value estate could probably benefit from taking out both legal and financial advice before making the Will. Furthermore, anybody with a difficult family life would also benefit from taking proper advice before making a will. Therefore, in some cases it is worth paying the extra money for a professionally drafted will and an online will, which may ultimately prove cheap but ineffective.
The 5 Top Online Will Makers in California
● NOLO – $299.99
NOLO is perhaps America’ biggest and bestest online lawyer. Their Quicken Will Maker and Trust estate planning software offers users access to a large number of estate planning documents including Wills, a living trust, and executor documents.
NOLO’s Quicken also allows users to review and revise the Will and other documents whenever they like.
● U.S. Legal Wills – From $39.95
Cheap and cheerful, U.S Legal Wills position themselves as the fast, no thrills online will maker. Their service offers “Wills in 20 minutes” although in our view users would be advised not to rush such an important task!
U.S Legal Will’s packages start at $39.95 for the Will, and the full estate package costs $129. They also offer a 30 day money back guarantee although we are not entirely sure in what circumstances a user would want a refund.
● Trust & Will – $159
The first thing that makes Trust & Will stand out is that they offer a couples service which is ideal for married spouses who want to take care of their families. They also offer unlimited edits and another huge advantage is their up to date advice on tax and estate planning law – if the relevant laws change then their notification system prompts users to consider amending their wills accordingly.
The Trust & Will website is intuitive and user friendly, but the lack of legal suppro makes them suitable for those with complicated families or estates.
● Rocket Lawyer
Like NOLO, Rocket Lawyer is another online lawyer who offers a whole library of legal documents. Their Will making service is a lot more straightforward than with some on the list but additional documents are available for anybody who needs them.
Rocket Lawyers documents start at $39.99 but they also operate a subscription business model where users get access to their entire library of documents. Therefore they are the ideal choice for anybody with additional legal needs. Rocky Lawyer also offers legal support in the form of web chat so you can ask questions.