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How to create a will
Making a will doesn’t have to be hard. You can even do it online. Find out how to get started with this complete guide.
Many people put off the process of making a will — and in many cases, it’s because they’re not sure they really need one. Maybe you don’t think you have enough assets to distribute after your death, for example. Maybe you’re more concerned about leaving behind debts. Maybe you think wills are for people who can afford to hire lawyers and deal with time-consuming documentation.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Making an online will is easier and more affordable than ever — and in many cases, you can create a DIY will in as little as an hour. Once you know how to create an online will, you’ll be able to formalize important instructions that can protect your loved ones in a worst-case scenario, from who takes ownership of your home to who takes guardianship of your children.
You’ll also be able to specify your requests regarding end-of-life planning, including final arrangements — and if you have assets to distribute, you’ll be able to name your beneficiaries and bequeath your gifts.
Does that sound like a good idea? Great. Here’s an even better one.
Once you’re ready to make an online will, Haven Life is ready to help. In addition to all of the benefits offered by an affordable term life insurance policy, eligible Haven Term policyholders are able to access resources and services designed to help them live a healthier, more protected life through the Haven Life Plus rider — including the opportunity to create a no-cost digital will through Trust & Will.
With Haven Life Plus, you can use Trust & Will’s estate planning services to help you prepare for the future and provide for your loved ones. Haven Life Plus members have the choice of one individual or couples trust, will or guardian plan — and since these services are normally valued at up to $699, Haven Life’s partnership with Trust & Will could help you save both time and money.
With that in mind, we reached out to Mitch Mitchell, Associate Counsel at Trust & Will, to learn more about how to make an online will — and why taking the time to create an online will is an essential part of the estate planning process.
In this article:
Who needs a will?
We won’t mince words: Pretty much every adult should have a will. And today making a simple, straightforward will is easier than ever, and can even be accomplished online on sites like Trust & Will, often for an affordable cost. This easy, streamlined service also includes a health care power of attorney and directives.
Just like having a will, pretty much every adult with loved ones needs life insurance. If the unthinkable should happen, the death benefit from a life insurance policy can provide a financial safety net for those who matter most to you.
As an added feature for those who have put life insurance protection into place with a Haven Term policy, the Haven Life Plus rider, included in the Haven Term policy, offers access to a digital will for policyholders and their partner at no cost from Trust & Will, along with access to other services to help policyholders live healthier, fuller and more protected lives.
That all said, in a recent survey conducted by Haven Life, we learned that nearly half of respondents did not have a will. Roughly 80% of those folks said that was because they hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
But this can be easily remedied. Here’s how you can create a will quickly and easily online.
Online wills vs. other types of will creation
Some people wonder if it’s possible to make a DIY will on their own — or whether creating a legal document like a will is best done under the supervision of a lawyer. While you can work with an attorney to create your will, most people will be able to save both time and money by using an online will planning service to create a simple Last Will and Testament.
“Lawyers generally will be more expensive because they are literally charging you for their time,” explains Mitchell. Lawyers not only bill by the hour but also work with multiple clients simultaneously — which means that working with a lawyer to create your will could take a lot longer than you anticipated. “Sometimes you have to wait weeks for an appointment to see a lawyer, weeks more to receive drafts after an initial meeting, followed by more time to sign finalized drafts.”
Making an online will, on the other hand, can be completed on your own schedule. “With an online will service, you eliminate the waiting between steps,” says Mitchell.
Of course, you can always pause between steps if you need to look up important information or talk to a family member about how to divide your estate among your beneficiaries — and if you ultimately decide that you need the kind of legal advice that a good estate planning attorney can provide, you can always make an appointment with your nearest law firm.
But why not start with an online will? You might be surprised at how easy it is to complete the will creation process — especially if you know how to create an online will before you begin.
How to create an online will
Learning how to make an online will is simple — in fact, most online will planning services are designed to take you through the process step by step. All you have to do is create your account, select the type of will you want to create and use the online forms to fill out the requested information.
“Using an online service allows you to get your estate plan done on your schedule,” says Mitchell. “At Trust & Will, we often hear feedback like ‘That was so much easier than I expected — I should have done this years ago!’ The hardest part is just making the commitment to do it.”
Some people are able to make an online will in a single session, completing the process in an hour or less. However, it’s a good idea to plan for the process to take multiple sessions spread over several days. Why?
Because once you begin writing your online will, you may realize that there are a few estate planning factors you haven’t yet considered. How many assets do you currently own, for example, and how much are those assets worth? How are you going to divide your estate among your loved ones? Do you need to leave special instructions for distributing heirlooms or managing real estate?
In addition to asking yourself how you want to distribute your personal property after your death, you may also need to take time to consider the other questions that a top online will planning service might ask, such as who should take guardianship of your children in a worst-case scenario. Many online wills include an opportunity for you to specify your final wishes in terms of funeral planning and memorial services, and some online wills allow you to name a healthcare proxy or write out an advance directive.
What you need to know before making an online will
Before you begin making your online will, it’s a good idea to know how you plan to distribute your estate. You’ll also want to know who to designate as the executor of your will, especially because this person will be responsible for ensuring that the instructions in your will are followed.
If your online will includes a living will component, you’ll want to know who to name as your agent — that is, who has power of attorney to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated or unable to advocate for yourself.
“You need to know the full names of the people you want to name as your executor and your agent. You’ll also need to know the full names of the beneficiaries who will be receiving your property when you die,” Mitchell explains.
If you’re unsure about what is included in an estate plan or how you want to divide your estate, don’t worry—a good online will planning service is designed to help you through the process and ensure that every important question gets answered, even if you don’t have the answers in advance.
That said, the more you know before you begin making your online will, the faster the will creation process will go. “Having a general idea of your final wishes as to end-of-life care, including life support or comfort measures, and the final disposition of your body, such as burial or cremation, also helps,” Mitchell advises.
If you want even more help, Trust & Will has a PDF outlining all of the items you should collect before starting an estate plan.
“Using an online service allows you to get your estate plan done on your schedule. The hardest part is just making the commitment to do it.”—Mitch Mitchell, Associate Counsel at Trust & Will
Other estate planning tools to consider
Making an online will is only one part of the estate planning process. In order to help secure peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones, it’s important to have multiple estate planning documents in place.
If you are married or in a civil partnership, for example, you and your spouse or civil partner may want to create mirror wills. These matching wills make it easy for assets and other types of property to pass from one person to another after a death, ensuring that your spouse or partner is able to take possession of household assets and items without unwanted legal issues.
You’ll also want to help financially protect your partner — and your children — with an affordable term life insurance policy. “Double-check your life insurance coverage and beneficiary designations,” advises Mitchell. Do you have enough life insurance coverage to pay for final expenses, provide for your family’s immediate needs and ensure that your loved ones can cover the long-term payments associated with mortgages, car loans or college tuition?
While you’re checking the beneficiaries on your life insurance policy, you might want to check to see who is currently listed as the beneficiary on your other financial accounts — and update those names if necessary, as part of your financial plan. “Check with your financial advisor or financial institutions on revisiting and refreshing beneficiaries on any brokerage or retirement accounts you have,” says Mitchell.
Lastly, it’s worth asking yourself whether you should create a revocable living trust. Like a will, a living trust helps you define what happens to your assets after your death — but unlike a will, a revocable living trust can help your loved ones avoid the probate court process. When you use a living trust to designate how you would like your assets to be distributed, the assets in the trust are allowed to bypass probate and transfer directly to their beneficiaries.
You may also want to consider an irrevocable living trust, which provides a way to avoid both probate and certain types of estate tax. Keep in mind that once you put assets into an irrevocable trust, they cannot be removed or modified without the permission of the beneficiary. A living trust, on the other hand, can be modified as often as you want — which is why it’s called a living document.
If you’re interested in writing a trust as well as making an online will, Trust & Will offers both services — and in both cases, the process is designed to be easy, affordable and understandable. Wills and trusts should be part of everyone’s long-term plan, including yours. Use our beginner’s guide to creating a will online to get started, and let Trust & Will guide you the rest of the way.
About Louis Wilson
Louis Wilson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, both online and in print. He often writes about travel, sports, popular culture, men’s fashion and grooming, and more. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he has developed an unbridled passion for breakfast tacos, with his wife and two children.Read more by Louis Wilson
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.
Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.
MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.
Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus
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