Fact Finders: The pros and cons of online wills

A closer look at online wills and if they’re good enough for your family’s peace of mind.
Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 10:21 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The tax filing deadline is this coming Monday. It may have you thinking about finances. In this Fact Finders, one couple wants to know; Will an online will stand up in court?

For some, a sudden medical crisis or the birth of a baby can trigger the urgent need to create a will. An online will can be done quickly at home and it can often cost less than a hundred dollars.

But an experienced attorney will ask you questions to make sure you’re fully covered. And, in Missouri attorneys will almost always use two witnesses and a notary to make the will what’s called self-proving. In other words, a will that will pass all the checks to avoid a lengthy review in court.

Then, you may have a special situation. Our viewer mentioned leaving money to several different charities.

“In that instance, then you definitely need to go to an attorney and you’re.., you are better served going and meeting with someone in person rather than finding something online. Because it’s going to be very unique to the person that wants to create it. And they may have very specific ideas about how they want their assets divided and distributed, there may be certain requirements that they want in place,” Catherine Moore of Kirkland, Woods & Martinsen.

Bottom line, an online will is better than no will. It may be right for you if your situation is straightforward and simple.

On the other hand, you may want an attorney if you own a business, investment property or there are children or other dependents in your life.

So, for the viewer’s question; will an online will stand up in court? It really depends. If you go online, do make sure it’s specific to your state.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offered these suggestions on the way to find an attorney:

You can contact a lawyer referral service in your area by reaching out to your state or local bar association.

You may qualify for free legal services through legal aid. Scroll down for a list of offices in each state.

You can ask people you know to suggest attorneys they have worked with in the past.

You can ask an attorney you know or have worked with before if they can refer you to an attorney who has experience with issues similar to yours.

If you’re a service member, you should consult with your local JAG Legal Assistance Office .

Ask questions

To help determine whether the attorney has a good understanding of your situation, and to understand whether you can afford an attorney you should consider asking these questions:

How much of your work involves this area of law and representing people in my situation?

Do you charge an up-front fee?

Will I have to pay even if I lose my case in court?

If I can’t afford to hire you, can you refer me to a consumer law attorney who may not charge up-front fees?

Arkansas

Arkansas Legal Services Partnership: Legal Services Attorneys 

Missouri

Missouri Legal Aid: Legal Services Attorneys 

If you have something you want us to investigate, email us at factfinders@ky3.com.