Using Downloadable Wills Instead Of Lawyers – Can DIY Beat Old Fashion Legal Advice?

downloadable wills

Downloadable wills are a type of online will making. As opposed to heading to a lawyer’s office and paying a high hourly rate, online wills offer the chance to create a will for a fraction of the price in a fraction of the time – and from home. Of these online wills, downloadable wills were the first to come to market, before cloud-based wills became popular.

There are some pros and cons of using downloadable wills, but ultimately the dedicated software allows the user to securely work offline with the help of many support documents and instructions.

You can expect most online wills to take between 10 – 60 minutes to complete, which is a big selling point. Many people weren’t asking the question of how to make a will without a lawyer before the pandemic, because they weren’t aware it was possible. Now, it’s becoming the norm for young adults.

Costs: Downloadable Wills vs Lawyers

When paying for a last will and testament at a downloadable wills company, you can expect to pay anywhere between $40 and $100, with some exceptions. For example, NOLO is a leader in this space,  and they charge $59.99 for a single last will and testament document, or $89 for Package 1 which includes several other documents, like a living will and medical power of attorney.

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The price of a will in the US can be a flat fee of $300 for a simple will, but it could be a lot more depending on various factors, such as the law firm in question and the nature of the estate. 

This difference comes down to the cost of labor. US lawyers charge anywhere from $100 to $400 per hour.

Organizing a meeting, making greetings and introductions, growing over the will, the administration, and then leaving enough space to turn over clients’ meetings in the office (i.e. contingency) all takes time – which is very expensive.

When it comes to online wills, the process is mostly automated. The software in place was created under the guidance of lawyers, to ensure it’s legitimate, but once it can produce one will it can produce thousands for the same cost.

Some online will makers charge $30 for a will whilst others charge closer to $100. Whilst there are a few variables in the service you’re receiving, the main one is often if it’s a law firm that has lawyers working for them and thus often possible to reach for assistance, or a tech firm, which often has less experienced customer support and relied totally on automated software. This means that there are some online services out there that are somewhat of a middle ground between the digital and the traditional.

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Are Downloadable Wills Comprehensive and Reliable Enough?

Downloadable wills are certainly legitimate as they comply with local laws and regulations (check what states your given firm operates in). So, on paper, downloadable wills are the same as traditional wills in that they’re both totally legitimate and can successfully transfer estates as intended.

However, they do differ from traditional wills in that they’re not seen as bulletproof when disputed in court. Many people believe that you stand a better chance in a court of winning with a traditional will if, say, a distant relative disputed the will or the sound mind of the person in question.

However, this isn’t to say a downloadable will stands no chance of winning (particularly ones that are reviewed online by attorneys). So the question of whether they’re comprehensive enough depends on the likelihood that they will be challenged and the complexity of the estate. For a young father to want to leave everything to their only son, an online will is likely more than comprehensive and reliable enough. If you have a very sticky divorce and some entitled distanced relatives, or you have early signs of dementia, you may want to consider paying more for the traditional will. 

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Downloadable Wills vs Cloud-Based Software

Cloud-based software is generally the more common type of online will. This is where the user fills in the form/document builder over the internet (i.e. on their website). The benefit of this is that it’s usually more responsive, meaning you can access via mobile, tablet, PC, tablet, and so on (though, not always).

Of course, it relies on a stable internet connection, and there’s sometimes the possibility of losing your progress if this is interrupted. Downloadable wills use offline software that can be accessed anytime, but is often restricted to just Mac and Windows, meaning it’s not mobile-friendly.

It could be argued that downloadable wills are less user-friendly in their appearance (because web apps are easier to update and innovate on), but on the other hand, the dedicated software is sometimes more robust with fewer bugs (i.e. cloud-based software may have issues regarding the browser you’re using, enabling flash etc.). However, it’s worth pointing out that there are far more similarities between these than there are differences.

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