Are Online Wills Valid?

If you want to set up clear protections for your family members and loved ones, writing a will is the best way to do it. Life in unpredictable, and you never know what's coming next. That's why it's so important to have your last will and testament ready should anything unexpected occur. But if you're thinking about creating on online will to save time and money, think again. While online wills are valid in many states, it's still difficult for even the best lawyers to uphold them in a court of law. That's why you need to make sure you have all the information available when it comes to your options for creating a will. If you're ready to learn more, here's what you should be aware of. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.

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Are Online Wills Valid?

  1. It's A State-By-State Decision. Even if you fill out your will using an online service, there's no guarantee that it will stand up in a court of law. While many states do honor "holographic" wills, or wills that have been filled out solely by the executor, plenty of others, like New York and Illinois, do not. It's not just important to check your state's policy on online wills first. You should also check your state's policy on creating a last will and testament. When it comes to protecting your family and your assets, you just don't want to take any chances.
  2. You Still Need To Involve Other People. You might think that filling out an online will is an easy, quick way to get your wishes down on paper. But think again: In order to be held up in court, your will still needs to be notarized and seen by at least two witnesses in order to be deemed official. This is for your own protection. If you're not mentally stable, for instance, or something else is fishy about the circumstances of the creation of your will, you'll be able to have at least a few witnesses to make sure you're not being forced or coerced into writing a new will.
  3. One Mistake Could Totally Cancel Out Your Will. You might think you're a spelling whiz, but it's going to take a lot more than a basic spell check to ensure that your will is totally valid. As a legal document, your will needs to be totally free of any minor mistakes. That's why it's best to involve someone else, preferably a lawyer, to help draft and finalize your last will and testament. You don't want to deprive your family of their inheritance just because of one careless mistake.
  4. No Matter What, You'll Need A Trusted Lawyer To Help. No matter what you decide to do, always have a lawyer present. Even if you're of sound mind and judgment and you feel like you can take on everything yourself, it always helps to having someone standing by who's there to protect you and your family's interests. Don't try to do this important task yourself: Keep your lawyer informed on whatever you decide to do.

What If I Want To Change My Will?

People change their minds on the time. Thankfully, it's possible to change your will at any time, as long as you've filled out and filed your new will in the right way, with the help of a lawyer and witnesses. If you update your will and fail to get it notarized or filed in time, the court might not accept it as a true representation of your final wishes. The same goes for a will you created after suffering a mental or physical illness, so it's doubly important to get a clean bill of health before you create an updated will. If you want to make changes to an existing will or draft a new one, speak to your lawyer before making any moves.

State Requirements For Wills

State Holographic Wills Honored Minimum Age Requirement
Alabama No 18
Alaska Yes 18
Arizona Yes 18
Arkansas Yes 18
California Yes 18
Colorado Yes 18
Connecticut No 18
Delaware No 18
Florida No 18
Georgia No 14
Hawaii No 18
Idaho Yes 18
Illinois No 18
Indiana No 18
Iowa No 18
Kansas No 18
Kentucky Yes 18
Louisiana Yes 16
Maine Yes 18
Maryland No 18
Massachusetts No 18
Michigan Yes 18
Minnesota No 18
Mississippi Yes 18
Missouri No 18
Montana Yes 18
Nebraska Yes 18
Nevada Yes 18
New Hampshire No 18
New Jersey Yes 18
New Mexico No 18
New York No 18
North Carolina Yes 18
North Dakota Yes 18
Ohio No 18
Oklahoma Yes 18
Oregon No 18
Pennsylvania Yes 18
Rhode Island No 18
South Carolina No 18
South Dakota Yes 19
Tennessee Yes 18
Texas Yes 18
Utah Yes 18
Vermont No 18
Virginia Yes 18
Washington No 18
West Virginia Yes 18
Wisconsin No 18
Wyoming Yes 18

Can I Make Sure My Will Isn't Contested?

While there's no way to guarantee that no one will try to contest your will after your death, very few wills are successfully contested in court as long as they're set up the right way. If you've retained a lawyer, part of their job is to make the case that your last will and testament represents your wishes and that you were of sound mind when you made it. In some cases, relatives or friends can make a claim that a last-minute change in a will was due to influence from another person. However, if you were totally mentally sound and were acting by yourself, you won't have to worry about anyone successfully contesting your will.

Other Ways Of Protecting Your Interests

While making a will is the best way to guarantee that your family and loved ones are looked after, there are also plenty of others ways to do it with the help of your lawyer. Here are a few options to think about:

  • Setting Up A Trust. If you have children or people close to you, a good way to make sure they inherit your funds is to set up a trust. With the help of your lawyer, you can dictate the terms of the trust, decide when they're able to access it, and figure out all the pertinent details.
  • Setting Up A Guardianship. If you have small children or even if you want your property to fall into the right hands, creating a guardianship will ensure a smooth transition after your passing.
  • Donating Materials To A University Or Library. If you have papers or work of note, you can make sure they go to the right people by making sure you leave them to a specific institution of learning.
  • Create A Power Of Attorney. If you want someone to be responsible for you before you die, should you end up being incapacitated, you'll want to set up a power of attorney beforehand. Depending on what you decide, this may be able to carry over even after your death.
  • Create An Advance Directive. An advance directive, or "living will," allows you to carry out some of your wishes for property and monetary distribution while you're still alive.
  • Create A Trustee. If you want someone to be responsible for the licensing of your work when you die, setting up a trustee to manage your affairs after you die is a good way to do it. You'll need to speak to your trustee first along with your lawyer, to make sure they're willing to take on the responsibility.

In Depth

You want to protect your family and leave something behind for your loved ones. Whether you're a senior citizen, someone in a high-risk profession, or simply someone who wants to stay prepared, you need to make sure your wishes are written down and preserved should anything happen to you at a moment's notice. But when it comes to writing a will, what's the best way to do it? It might seem convenient to use an online service, but before you decide to write an online will, you need to be aware of the risks it entails.

Take Mary, a woman whose father was dying of a serious illness in Ireland. He hadn't set up his will ahead of time, and by the time Mary's sister swept in and instated herself as the will's executor, it was too late for him to do anything but lay back and be taken advantage of. Mary's sister took all their father's money while he was still on his deathbed, and Mary and her other siblings never saw any of their inheritance.

Don't let this happen to you. Make sure to read our quick guide on setting up your will the right way, found right on this page. Scroll beneath this video to get connected with a lawyer who will make sure your wishes are totally respected no matter what. Ready to protect your family and your assets? Here's what you need to know about online wills.

Here's what you need to know about online wills.

#1: It Depends On Your State. In some states, such as Alabama, Delaware, and Florida, online wills are perfectly valid. However, that doesn't mean that they'll be taken seriously or respected in a court of law if they're filled out improperly or even if they fall into the wrong hands. When CBS news anchor Charles Kuralt died in 1997, he left a written note stating that he planned to leave his mistress over 90 acres of land.

Because the note wasn't treated like a will and wasn't seen as a legal document, the mistress had to go to court with Kuralt's family for more than six years. In the end, the mistress got the property, but the family had to pay all the taxes on the estate. Don't ever let yourself get into this position. Check out our brief guide on making sure a will is legal and valid, found on this page. Scroll below this video to find a qualified estate lawyer who can help.

#2: It Still Needs Witnesses and Notarization. Even if you create a will online, you'll still need to do some work to make sure it's recognized by the courts. Like any legal document, you need witnesses to be present, and you need a notary public to give it the seal of approval, so if you think you'll be saving time by using an online service, don't be so certain.

Even if you create a will online, you'll still need to do some work to make sure it's recognized by the courts.

Also, it can be life-saving to have to deal with a lawyer in person when writing your will. When a Texas land owner created a will leaving his wife 7 million dollars, he forgot to figure in the estate tax she'd have to owe after he died. Luckily, his wife consulted a lawyer who was able to relieve her of paying the $3.5 million owed on the property, but she had to give up a lot of money in order to be able to leave any of the estate to her sons after her death.

If her husband had had legal help, they wouldn't have had to make any compromises and the family could have continued to live comfortably through generations.

#3: A Single Mistake Could Invalidate Your Will. Even if you think you're crossing all your T's and dotting your I's, you never know what you're leaving out. From a small mistake like a spelling error or misprint to a large one, like neglecting to do a mental health examination, any misstep could render your will invalid.

From a small mistake like a spelling error or misprint to a large one, like neglecting to do a mental health examination, any misstep could render your will invalid.

Don't forget what happened when billionaire Leona Helmsley left 12 million dollars to her dog rather than her children, neglecting to get a clean bill of mental health first. If you don't want to make a tragic mistake with your money, you need more help than a standard online will can provide.

#4: Whatever You Decide, You'll Need A Lawyer. We're not lawyers, and this shouldn't be taken as legal advice. However, whatever you decide to do, you'll need a great lawyer by your side. Whether you're trying to protect your money from opportunistic relatives and make sure it goes to the right people, or simply want to make sure it doesn't get invalidated due to a minor mistake, it's important that you get the best legal help available if you don't want anything to go wrong.

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