12 reasons to use an Online Will service instead of a DIY Will Kit

I’d like to start by defining some terms. An Online Will service allows you to step through an interactive interview on the internet, at the end of which a document is generated. This document should then be printed and signed in the presence of two witnesses to create a legal Last Will and Testament. There is no such thing as an “online Will” – any digitally stored or scanned document is not legally admissible to probate. A document created through an online Will service still needs to be printed and signed to make it legal.

A DIY Will Kit is a blank form kit that you might buy from Amazon, or WHSmiths. It is generally a form with some typed clauses and white spaces for you to handwrite your details. They sometimes come with a disk that lets you type in your answers.

This image is from a genuine Will kit that we purchased for £10 from a book shop.

Online Will, DIY Will Kit

Genuine DIY Will Kit

Here us just 12 reasons why an online Will service is a superior way to prepare your Will.

1. You can guarantee that the online Will service is up-to-date.

Laws change. In fact the UK intestacy laws were significantly updated as recently as last week. The Will kit available through Amazon was published in 2005 – nearly a decade ago. Although we have not read the kit in detail, there is a distinct possibility that the forms, and certainly some of the instructions, are now incorrect. In the last decade there have been significant changes to same-sex marriage for example, which would make any guidance on this topic outdated. Every time you login to an online Will service you can be assured that the service reflects the most recent laws as the service is updated on a regular basis.

2. An online Will service will be specific to your jurisdiction.

It is critical that you create a Will that complies to your jurisdiction. For example, the laws in England and Wales are different to the laws of Scotland. You may hold assets in other countries and any Will would have to be written under the laws of that country. Our service at LegalWills.ca and USLegalWills.com create different Wills for every Province and State. It is vital that the Will you create is correct for where you live and where you hold assets.

3. An online Will service only allows you to do things you can legally do.

There are countless restrictions to what you can and cannot do in your Will. You cannot include property jointly owned as joint tenants, you cannot disinherit a spouse or dependent, you cannot leave a sum of money to your pet, and so on. If you use a blank form kit, you may fill in all of the spaces, but the final document may be completely unusable as you have described a distribution of your estate that is not permitted by law. An online service like the one at LegalWills.co.uk will not let you do anything that you are not legally permitted to do.

4. An online Will service checks for errors.

If you look at the image at the top of this post, it will give you some idea how incredibly difficult it is to write an error-free Will using a blank kit. There are many simple errors that can be made using this Will writing method. Supposing you left your entire estate to your 4 children with 20% to Jimmy, 30% to Susan, 35% to Freddie and 30% to Sarah….oops, you’ve just left 115% of your estate. This is just one example of a very, very common error that could not happen with an online Will service. There was a recent case in the US where an elderly woman tried to list everything she owned in her Will and didn’t include a residuary clause. By the time she died, her assets were very different and there was no named beneficiary for the assets that had been accumulated since she wrote her Will. This kind of basic error is not possible with an online Will service like LegalWills.co.uk.

5. Mistakes are easy to fix.

If you use a handwritten blank form kit you usually have one chance to get things absolutely right. If you accidentally spell somebody’s name wrong, you cannot just scribble it out and write a new name – this will almost certainly bring a challenge to the Will as it would not be clear who made the scribbled change. With an online Will service, you simply login to your account, make the change and print a new Will.

6. The final document will be more comprehensive.

A Will created through the service at LegalWills.co.uk is about six pages long and includes over 20 clauses including Trusts for Minor beneficiaries, powers granted to the trustee, guardianship for children, payments to charities, all of which would likely be missing from a blank form kit. The basic kit may look like a Will, but the missing clauses are critical when it comes to administering the estate.

7. All scenarios are taking into account.

It is not unusual for the unexpected to happen. You may feel that you have a good plan in place for the distribution of your estate, but then you and your main beneficiary are involved in a common accident. Your choice of Executor and Trustee may be perfect, but they end up being hospitalised just before you die. You have selected guardians for your children, but they moved overseas, so they are no longer the best choice. An online Will service not only allows you to create your estate plan, but it will also guide you through alternate plans in case your first choice cannot work.

8. No legal knowledge or language required.

If you use a blank kit and want your estate to be divided between your children, or whichever children are alive when you die, or if one of the children were to die before you it would go instead to their children, in equal shares, it a very complicated clause to write. It actually needs to use legal language like “living issue” “per stirpes” “per capita” “whosoever survives”. Using an online Will service you can describe what you want to happen, and the correct legal language is inserted into the final document for you based on established Will “precedents” (paragraphs that have been used before by solicitors and are known to work). Writing a Will using a blank form would be difficult for a legally trained solicitor, and almost impossible for a layperson.

9. More options.

An online Will service will prompt you to create a more sophisticated Will. Supposing for example that you want to leave a legacy to your child, but not allow them to receive the inheritance until they are 25 (instead of 18), but while the trust is in place, the funds could be used for their benefit at the discretion of the Trustee. It’s a sophisticated arrangement to set up and almost impossible to do through a DIY Will Kit. An online Will service allows you to do just this and much more.

10. Additional online tools.

One of the most significant challenges of successfully executing an estate plan is the gathering up of assets. It is almost impossible for your Executor and Trustee to know that they have found every bank account, every policy, every online account, and every material asset. At LegalWills.co.uk we are trying to help as much as we can by including added value like the proprietary keyholder service that allows you to grant access to your documents to named trusted people. Our messages service allows you to pre-type messages to friends and family members to be released by your keyholders at the appropriate time. Our Executor handbook tool within our LifeLocker service allows you to securely document your key people to contact, your financial assets and online accounts all in one place. The resulting document is a invaluable tool for your Executor.

11. An online Will can be updated to reflect new circumstances from anywhere at any time.

You can login to your account at LegalWills.co.uk from any computer anywhere in the World. This means that you can make changes to your Will at any time, and print a new document. Once this is signed in the presence of two witnesses it becomes your legal Will. It is very common for people to use our service when they need a Will right NOW, and we are not only a convenient process for writing the Will, but also for ensuring that it always reflects your most current circumstances.

12. You have the option to have the document checked by a solicitor.

When you have completed a DIY Will kit you will sign it and put it somewhere safe. Unfortunately you will have no way of knowing whether any of the preceding errors, limitations, legal language or alternate scenarios have been adequately addressed. An online service not only protects you from making errors, we also provide the option of having your final document reviewed by one of our legal team, just to provide you with the final reassurance that you may need.

When you are evaluating the different approaches to preparing your Will, you should carefully consider some of these limitations of the DIY Will Kit. You may save a few pounds, but the final document is not going to give you the peace of mind of an online Will service.

Tim Hewson