An online will is a will document that has been created through the use of online legal document services.  These are a relatively new phenomenon in the legal field, and have been introduced mainly through online legal form websites.  Online wills allow a person to create, modify, and save a will document through various form templates that the person fills out.

Are Online Wills Valid?

A will that is created through online mechanisms still needs to satisfy the various will requirements in order to be considered valid.  The requirements for drafting a will generally include: 

  • Having the mental and legal capacity to form a will
  • Appointing an executor
  • Including a statement indicating that the document is a will
  • Signing and dating the will
  • Having the will witnessed by 2 or 3 people
  • Having various provisions related to specific property items, minors, and other issues

Thus, you should note that an online will is not valid until it meets all of these requirements.  Simply filling out the form online will not give the will legal effect.  For example, at that point, the will still needs to be signed and witnessed, which involves at least 2-3 other people. 

What are Some Issues With Online Wills?

One main issue with online wills is that of “competency”.  Under state laws, a person needs to have both the legal capacity (i.e. over 18 years old) and mental capacity to create a will.  This means that they should be able to make important legal decisions on their own, and be able to understand the effects of those decisions. 

In other words, even though will forms are accessible online, that doesn’t mean that just any person can fill them out.  A person needs to be both old enough and capable of understanding how the document will affect their estate.

Another issue with online wills is that of privacy and security.  Since the documents are accessed, filled out, and (sometimes) stored online, they can be subject to internet theft and fraud.  You may wish to withhold sensitive information unless you’re sure that it won’t be subject to violations.  Finally, online wills generally still require the assistance of an attorney, especially if a person has a large estate or valuable items of property that they wish to distribute.

Should I Hire a Lawyer if I Need Help With an Online Will?

You may wish to contact a lawyer if you need help with an online will document.  Your estate lawyer can provide you with expert advice regarding the laws in your area.  Also, your lawyer can help represent your interests in court if a will conflict arises, or if someone is challenging the validity of your will documents.