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The Bump Editors

Is It Okay to Create a Will Online?

Wondering whether an e-will is a reliable alternative? Here’s why creating an online will can be a smart move, and when an attorney is actually needed.

As a parent, you want to make sure your child is well cared for, especially if the worst should happen and you aren’t around to raise them—which is why creating a will is a smart move. But a lot of people put off this important task, eager to avoid a mountain of paperwork. Good news: There’s such a thing now as e-wills, which allow you to fill out all the forms electronically. And if you’re wondering whether an online will is a reliable choice, you’re in luck.

Even if you aren’t wealthy and don’t own property, a will is a crucial document to plan for your child’s future and ensure they’re provided for in whatever way you wish. But creating a will doesn’t automatically call for a meeting with a lawyer. With the help of online estate planning services, you can write, sign and file your will all from the convenience of your laptop or phone.

Some people wonder whether e-wills are a trustworthy alternative to drawing up a will in hard copy with the help of an attorney. The answer? Software is actually an excellent tool for estate planning. In fact, a lot of lawyers use software themselves to create estate plans for their clients.

There are three primary steps in creating a will: Establishing your circumstances, establishing your wishes and generating documents accordingly. Online estate planning tools do each of these things in much the same way that an attorney would. For example, when you sit down with a lawyer, they’ll ask a bunch of personal questions designed to clarify your situation and particular needs and wishes (like, do you have kids? Who do you want to name as your child’s legal guardian?). An attorney might even have you fill out a Q&A form on your own time in advance of the meeting. Online tools, like the world’s leading estate planning site Willing, do the exact same thing: They direct you to answer specific questions about your circumstances and preferences and prompt follow-up questions based on your initial answers, all modeled on standard attorney questionnaires.

When it’s time to draw up the documents, lawyers generally work from a template form and simply fill in the relevant details. To generate an online will, estate planning sites do the same: They take a template and select provisions and update entries based on the information you initially provided. The upside to making a will online with tools like Willing? Their software asks you to enter your info just once and then generates all the documents you need–no repeating the process for each individual document. Depending on which state you live in, you can even sign your will electronically using remote notarization and witnessing.

For most people, there’s no need to involve a lawyer at all, saving you time and money. But of course there are exceptions. If you have a very high net worth (say, $10 million or more) or have specific concerns related to guardianship—for example, you’re the parent of a special-needs child or are already the guardian of a minor or someone who can’t look after themselves—an attorney can help you navigate questions specific to your circumstances.

Updated December 2018

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, some of which may be sponsored by paying vendors.

Plus, more from The Bump:

How to Write a Will

What Every Parent Needs to Know About Writing a Will

A Financial Checklist for New Parents