How to Write a Will Online in 8 Steps

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · February 06, 2024 · 6 minute read

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How to Write a Will Online in 8 Steps

When you’re creating a will, you generally have two options: hire an attorney who specializes in estate planning or write a will online using software and templates. The second path is often used when someone has a more straightforward financial situation.

Either way, a will (or, more formally, a last will and testament) is an important legal document that makes clear how you’d like your assets to be distributed after you die. If there are minor children involved, it can also name the guardian.

If you think creating an online will is right for your situation, read on for a step-by-step guide for how to write a will online.

8 Steps to Writing a Will Online

To legally make a will, the testator (the person making the will) must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind — meaning they are generally aware of how much property and other assets they have and understand what they’re signing.

Assuming these conditions are met, here are the general steps to follow for writing a will online.

Step 1: Be Clear About Your State’s Laws

Each state has distinct laws when it comes to the number of people who must witness the will, whether the document needs to be notarized and more. Know what your state requires before you get started.

💡 Quick Tip: We all know it’s good to have a will in place, but who has the time? These days, you can create a complete and customized estate plan online in as little as 15 minutes.

Step 2: Choose the Software You’ll Use

A quick search of terms like “how to do a will online” will provide you with plenty of template options. You might also consider asking friends and family members if they’ve used a software that worked well for them.

Then, compare your options. Pay attention to factors such as:

•   Cost: Check pricing structures and fees. Some services will charge a flat fee for services rendered, while others may require a subscription to the site before you can make a will. What services are included in those fees? Which ones aren’t? Some sites have a yearly fee, which you may find worthwhile if the will is being reviewed one or more times a year by an estate planning attorney.

•   Ease of use: Just like with any other DIY service, some companies will guide you through how to make a will online more seamlessly than others. Find out how you can get answers to questions and if there’s any extra cost for this. Some sites may offer online support or provide a phone number to call. Check, too, to see if the company offers information on estate planning basics.

•   Company reputation: Only work with reputable companies. To investigate, you can read online reviews, search for news coverage of the company and check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for any complaints about deceptive practices.

Recommended: How Much Does It Cost to Make a Will?

Step 3: Name an Executor

After selecting a software, you’ll need to choose an executor, which is the person who manages the estate after the testator dies. Assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe) typically go into the estate, and it’s up to you to decide which assets to include in your will.

When you die, the executor is responsible for paying off outstanding debts and then appropriately distributing remaining assets to the beneficiaries, which are the people who receive assets from your estate as set out in your will. This process will include overseeing probate, a court-supervised proceeding where a will is confirmed as authentic, debts are paid off, and assets get distributed.

Additionally, it is the executor’s duty to keep your assets safe before distribution and otherwise manage financial issues until the estate is closed.

You’ll typically want to pick someone you trust as your executor, such as a family member or even an attorney. You can also choose more than one person to serve as your executor.

Step 4: Decide How You Want to Distribute Assets

As part of writing a will online, you’ll list your beneficiaries and what they will receive. For example, you might leave 100% of your estate to a spouse or significant other. Or, you may leave one-third of your estate to each of your three children.

For each of your beneficiaries, list their full legal name, contact information, date of birth and what assets they should receive. Focus on who would inherit your house, cars, bank accounts, and any other significant asset.

You may also decide to list a secondary beneficiary. This person (or people) would inherit your assets if the primary beneficiaries were to pass away before you do or otherwise won’t inherit. The will making software may refer to secondary beneficiaries as contingent beneficiaries.

Also keep in mind that there are asset distributions that aren’t covered by a last will and testament — in other words, your non-probate assets. Accounts where you name beneficiaries outside of your will can include retirement or pension accounts, life insurance policies, and certain bank accounts, among others. Because you’ve already named beneficiaries here, you won’t need to include these accounts in your will.

Recommended: Types of Wills

Step 5: Name a Guardian for Minor Children

In a will, you can also list who would take in your minor children (if any) in the event you were to die. This is an important decision, and you should verify that the guardian you plan to name would be willing to serve in this role.

This is also the area of the will where you can list specific wishes about how your child would be brought up, whether that’s related to religion or their education, and so forth.

Step 6: Follow State Laws to Sign Your Will

To make your will legal and binding, you’ll need to sign it according to your state’s laws. Typically, this means that you must sign the document in the presence of two witnesses who are not beneficiaries or direct relatives.

Step 7: Let Key People Know Where Your Will Is Located

Knowing how to make a will online and appropriately completing the process is important — but the process doesn’t quite end there. You’ll also want to let the executor and other key people know where the document can be found. You can put it in a safe or store it electronically as two possibilities.

Step 8: Update Your Will As Necessary

Every few years, review your will to see if any updates should be made. Also review the document if you encounter any major life changes, including:

•   Having a child or grandchild

•   Getting married or divorced

•   Becoming widowed

•   Experiencing a substantial change in your finances (for better or worse)

•   Developing significant health issues

•   Moving to a different state

Also update your will if you want to change your beneficiaries or what they’ll inherit.

💡 Quick Tip: It’s recommended that you update your will every 3-5 years, and after any major life event. With online estate planning, changes can be made in just a few minutes — no attorney required.

The Takeaway

When wondering how to write a will online, these steps will take you through the process. Once you’ve chosen a software service that’s right for you and your will is created, make sure to store it somewhere safe (and that people know where that is) and that you continue to make updates to your will as your life continues to change and evolve.

When you want to make things easier on your loved ones in the future, SoFi can help. We partnered with Trust & Will, the leading online estate planning platform, to give our members 15% off their trust, will, or guardianship. The forms are fast, secure, and easy to use.

Create a complete and customized estate plan in as little as 15 minutes.

Photo credit: iStock/monkeybusinessimages

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