Having a will can help prevent heated family squabbles, ensure that loved ones are cared for and guarantee that your possessions are distributed as you wish. And while most people know that making a will is important, only 32% of Americans have one, according to a 2024 Wills and Estate Planning Study by Caring.com. It’s just one of those adult tasks that is all too easy to put off, especially because it can be emotionally challenging to consider.

The good news is drafting a will doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive, particularly now that there are so many options for creating one yourself online. If you need a little guidance on getting started, we’ve got you covered.

First Steps

Asset Inventory

Before you start researching the different software options for crafting your will online, you’ll want to go over your finances and put a little thought into the future.

Your first step is to take inventory of your assets. The easiest way to do this is to simply make a list! You’ll want to think about:

  • Financial items such as money in checking, saving and investment accounts, as well as any stocks or bonds that you might have. 
  • Property items, such as your home, any land you own, other real estate, cars and boats. 
  • Business ownership and insurance policies, such as life insurance (if you have it).
  • Miscellaneous items of significance, such as jewelry or artwork you want to pass on to your heirs. Make a note of any family heirlooms, furniture or other items that might be considered valuable. 

Select Your Beneficiaries

Now that you have your list of assets, you need to consider who you want to have inheriting them. They can be family members, friends or organizations like a charity, church or nonprofit. Truly, the world is your oyster — the only person who cannot be a beneficiary is the one who is serving as a witness to the signing of the will.

Select an Executor

Selecting an executor might take some careful consideration. The executor is the individual or organization that will oversee the distribution of your assets as outlined in your will. This is no small charge, so you’ll want to be careful to choose someone dependable and trustworthy. If there isn’t anyone in your life who you think is up to the task, you can select a professional, such as a bank or attorney — but there will be fees involved.

Choose a Site Online

Now that you’ve got all your ducks in a row, it should be easy to go online and peruse all the different programs online that can help you create a will and provide other estate planning solutions. That said, there are a ton of options, so finding the one that’s right for you may take a little research. Here are a few that are highly rated and easy to use:

Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker & Trust

Touted by US News & World Report as the preferred estate planning software, Nolo’s WillMaker has just about everything you need to create customized legal documents. The starter bundle costs $99 (which is cheaper than what you would pay a private lawyer) and includes everything you need to draft a will, health care directives and final arrangements.

Fabric by Gerber Life

If your assets are pretty simple and straightforward, you can use Gerber Life’s free online will tool. After answering a few questions, you can print out the will and make it legally binding. The process only takes about five minutes (!!), so you’ll have zero excuses to put this task off any longer.

LegalZoom

If you feel uncomfortable making a legal document without actual legal guidance, you can enlist the help of LegalZoom’s services. With programs starting at $89, LegalZoom will connect you with an independent attorney who is knowledgeable about the laws in your state, and who can provide legal counsel at the start of the will-making process. Then, you can make the will on your own with the site’s self-guided questionnaire. If you have any questions you can reach out to an attorney, and legal counsel is also available for up to a year after you finish the will.

U.S. Legal Wills

Using slightly different tactics, U.S. Legal Wills will help you set up specific instructions for your loved ones. For $39.95, the online tool will help you line up information your executor can use to properly distribute assets by asking questions about your estate. If you need additional services, such as help setting up a power of attorney or storing documents in a digital vault, they are available for an additional fee.

New York State Specifications

For an online will to be valid in New York, it must satisfy the following requirements, according to another reliable site, Trust & Will:

    • The will must be in writing.
    • The testator (the person writing the will) must be at least 18 years old and be of sound mind. (A helpful guide to what being of sound mind entails can be found here.)
    • The testator must sign the will in front of two attesting witnesses. These witnesses must be competent, meaning they are capable of making decisions and have the capacity to reason.
    • After they see the testator sign the will, the witnesses must also sign the will.
    • The will must be printed on paper. While several states allow digital wills, New York does not currently recognize digital-only versions.

Top image by instaphotos, via Canva.com.


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