"I'll just get an internet will."

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Sometimes when I'm speaking with a potential client - they ask me why they should work with an attorney when they could just buy a will off the internet. It's a valid question - and as someone who enjoys DIY and bargains - I can appreciate the initial appeal.

On purchase price alone - it's true - every "internet will" I've seen advertised is cheaper than the lowest rate I've ever heard quoted by an attorney for a will. And, if you are comparing identical products, of course the one that is less expensive is the smarter choice. But, an "internet will" and a will prepared for you by an attorney are not identical products for many reasons. Here are just three:

  1. An "internet will" is, in its essence, a fill-in-the-blank document, albeit perhaps a complex one. For example - at your death, you want your property to go to your spouse, your child, and your sibling. That's what you write in the relevant blank. So does this mean your property is divided into three parts with 1/3 going to each? Or, does it mean it all goes to your spouse, and if your spouse passes away before you - then to your child, and if your child is passes away before you - then to your sibling? Or, does it mean something else? Also, what if your child is under age 18 when you pass away? What if everyone passes away before you? What if ...

  2. Each state has specific rules about how a will must be signed to be valid. And often, the rules vary depending on what kind of will it is. So what kind of will is an "internet will"? What are the signing requirements? The responsibility is on you, the purchaser and person filling in the blanks, to figure that out. And, if you don't get it exactly right - the Probate Court doesn't have to accept your "internet will" as valid after you pass away.

  3. It's possible, if not likely, that the "internet will" company isn't responsible if it turns out that the will you buy from them isn't accurate. complete, and/or up-to-date with current law in your state. (To find this, you have to read the "Terms of Service" closely, usually available as a link in the small type at the bottom of the homepage.) Let me just state that one again, for emphasis: They are not responsible if they will they sold you is invalid.

Conversely - a will prepared by an attorney is not a fill-in-the-blank document. It is customized to your personal, unique situation and your particular wishes. The attorney is responsible for ensuring that the necessary rules are complied when your will is signed to make it valid. And, the attorney is also responsible if it turns out the will s/he drafted for you was not valid.

So - do I think that an "internet will" is a completely bad idea for everyone? No. It can be better than nothing (but not always) and if you have the very simplest of needs and wishes - an "internet will" may suit you just fine. And, while I'm a biased source, I'm not alone in this line of thinking... The folks here and here, just to name a few, agree with me.

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