Online Will services – comparing LegalZoom with USLegalWills

Everything written in this article is correct as of August 29th 2018. Prices, services and review ratings change. We will attempt to update this post if there are material differences to the information presented here.

Comparing LegalZoom with USLegalWills.com – Executive Summary

Looking for an alternative to LegalZoom for writing your Will?

You may not have time to read this complete article, so here are the key points;

  1. Both LegalZoom and USLegalWills.com have been offering Will writing services for nearly 20 years now. The longevity of both companies is an important consideration when choosing an online Will service provider.
  2. In terms of the core Will writing service, USLegalWills.com has more options and more flexibility. It includes features like Pet Trusts, Lifetime interests trusts, a specific section on charitable bequests and Mirror Wills. There are no features in the LegalZoom service not available at USLegalWills.com
  3. USLegalWills.com is AT LEAST half the price of LegalZoom. When you take into consideration additional features like updates over time, USLegalWills.com is a fraction of the cost of LegalZoom (unlimited updates to all of your documents for 10 years is $34.95 at USLegalWills.com, at LegalZoom updates cost you $29.95 every single time you want to make a change!). There are also no ongoing subscriptions at USLegalWills.com and never any need to cancel a recurring payment.
  4. USLegalWills.com specializes in estate planning documents which means that customer service know estate planning, and the additional tools on the website are all geared towards estate planning. LegalZoom also specialize in business incorporation, trademarks and intellectual property service.
  5. USLegalWills.com have created a suite of services to support your Will. These include naming a keyholder to access your documents after you are gone, documenting your assets for your Executor through the MyLifeLocker service, uploading files to a digital vault for your loved ones, even writing messages to be distributed after you have passed away. LegalZoom only offer the downloaded documents and nothing else.
  6. Why is LegalZoom bigger? because they took a different corporate strategy in raising $800M of venture capital investment over the last few years. This gives the company a massive advertising budget. USLegalWills.com is privately held. This means that it is not driven by profitability and returns to investors, so we offer a fair service for a fair price. But this also means that we do not have $800M to spend on marketing!

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How do I know when to Write a Will? Am I too young?

Last year, we commissioned an independent study which showed that only 28% of Americans had a legal, up-to-date Will in place. Even if we took out the under 35’s from this survey, it showed that around two thirds of Americans did not have an up-to-date Will in place. The results clearly showed that most people don’t know when to write a Will, and that there is a common misconception that the best time to write one is later on in life.

When we looked specifically at under 35 year olds, nearly 90 percent of young American adults did not have an up-to-date Will in place!

Why are so many people woefully underprepared for their own death? Well, on a daily basis not many of us like to think about our inevitable demise. Frankly, Its just morbid and something that most of us don’t want to think about. Like going to the dentist or sitting an exam, there are some uncomfortable scenarios that we put off for as long as possible. Writing a Will should not be one of them, but it seems that the thought of going over your possessions and paying a lawyer is just too much effort for most people. Granted, writing a Will isn’t fun and when you’re young there are a million and one exciting things you would rather do but it’s really not such a long and laborious process as you might think. To help you see the benefits of having a Will we have outlined the reasons why you’re (almost) never too young to write one.

When to write a Will

When to write a Will? Death comes to us all

You shouldn’t think of writing a Will as a once-in-a-lifetime activity. You do not have to wait for the perfect time when your family and financial situation has permanently settled down. We encourage everybody to write their Will today, and then update it throughout your life as your circumstances change. Continue reading

How do you name guardians for children? – your Last Will and Testament

Why you should name guardians for children

Many people think the time to make a Will is when they’re old and two steps from the grave. That is not the case. Whenever anyone begins to acquire assets or income, they should think about a Will. On the personal side, whenever anyone becomes a parent, they need to anticipate that they may not survive until the child becomes an adult. It may be unlikely, but having a Will in place provides some insurance, and allows you to name guardians for children.

These are some of the main advantages of having a Will if you have children. If you have children, a Will is a must.

Naming guardians for children.

A guardian of is someone who takes the place of the parent and assumes the responsibility of raising the child until the child reaches the age of majority, typically 18 years of age. Raising the child means caring for their education, attending to all the child’s health issues, Continue reading

Planned giving: the state of charitable bequests in the US

“A note on Privacy: the protection and security of the documents created on our web site are of critical importance. In particular, we cannot access any information contained in a specific Will, nor can we read a person’s Will. However, we are able to access aggregated data on planned giving from an encrypted database folder that summarizes the number of times particular choices have been made within our service. We cannot connect this information to individual accounts. It is this data that has been mined to provide the information in this post”

Background to our study

At USlegalWills.com, we help thousands of Americans create their Last Will and Testament. A Will contains a lot of important information, such as who will be the guardians of your children and who will receive your house after you pass on, and it can also serve as a great way to give back to the community upon your death. Leaving money or assets to a charity is called “planned giving,” which USlegalWills.com offers for all its Wills. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, in 2015, individual giving, which makes up the vast majority of contributions received by non-profit organizations, “amounted to $258.51 billion in 2014, an increase of 7.1 percent in current dollars from 2013.” Ever since the Great Recession in 2008, “individual giving has been increasing in both current and inflation-adjusted dollars for the last couple years, although it has not recovered to pre-recession levels.”

Charitable giving at USLegalWills.com

Actual word cloud from bequests made at USLegalWills.com

With this charitable giving trend on the rise, we were interested in the level of “planned giving” going on in the United States. According to Russell James, the number of people aged 55+ with a charitable estate beneficiary hovers between 5% an 6%.

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The Free Last Will and Testament service – not all it seems

How much should you be paying for a Will? Why should you pay anything when just a few clicks away, you can find a free Last Will and Testament service? How can the exact same document cost $800 from an attorney, and absolutely nothing from a website? how do you choose how much to pay for your Will?

All interesting questions which we will answer in this article.

Free Last Will and Testament

What is a Will?

To understand the variation in the cost of a Will, you have to understand what makes a document a Last Will and Testament.

A Will declares itself to be your Will. It typically appoints an Executor who is responsible for following the instructions laid out in the document. It then goes on to describe how you would like to distribute your things after you are gone.

To make this a legal document you must print it on a piece of paper, date it, and sign it in the presence of two witnesses, who both in turn sign the document. Continue reading

Pets in a Will – how do you make sure that your pets are cared for?

Should You Make Provision for Your Pets in a Will?

We have all seen the stories of eccentric millionaires who leave their fortune to their pets in a Will. Their relatives are cut out of the Will, but Fido receives a very generous legacy. But it’s not as easy as you may think to leave something to your pets in a Will.

One of the most famous of these cases is that of billionaire Leona Helmsley’s dog. He was the lucky pooch who inherited $12 million from her estate. The Maltese dog, perhaps appropriately named “Trouble” was one of the major benefactors of her estate. Some of the family members weren’t quite so fortunate. Two grandchildren received nothing, and Leona evicted her son’s widow after his death.  Trouble did not get quite as much money as he bargained for as a judge later reduced the amount to $2 million. The grandchildren who Leona excluded were awarded $6 million and the balance went to charity.

Leona Helmsley earned the title of “Queen of Mean” during her lifetime. She served 18 months in prison for tax evasion. Unfortunately, her gift to her dog made Trouble the most hated dog in the country. He is said to have received numerous death and kidnapping threats, so had to have a permanent security guard with him.  He lived in style, but only spent about $190,000 a year. Most of that was on his security detail. Although we are sure there was plenty left over for grooming and food. Continue reading

How to write a Will – key steps to successfully writing your Will

Do you want to know how to write a Will? Even though writing a Will is one of the most important things that everyone ought to do, most of us are very good at avoiding the issue. Most people put off the task of writing a Will, even though it is one of the most important things that we can do for our family.

The one thing that you should not be apprehensive about is that you do not know how to write a Will. There are plenty of resources out there to help you.

None of us really wants to think about our own demise, so putting off writing a Will seems like the easier option. Unfortunately, the reality is that if we don’t deal with the task of writing a Will we leave our loved ones with huge potential difficulties.

Most people don’t make a Will – but you should not use this as an excuse! Writing a Will ought to be a very painless process and it can be quite affordable. Do not worry that you do not know how to write a Will. Continue reading

Writing your Will: we can help with the definitive guide

As with any task that comes to mind on odd occasions in your life, writing your Will can seem overwhelming. So much so, that most people don’t do it. However, if you are coming to this page, something that probably happened in your life to make you realize that writing a Will is a vitally important task.

Sadly most people who feel an immediate need to prepare their Will just do a Google search for a local estate planning attorney. They make an appointment, pay several hundreds or thousands of dollars and live with the peace of mind that the task is finally off their To Do list. As long as they don’t need to update it.

However, with a little research, you will quickly understand that writing your Will needn’t be difficult, inconvenient or expensive

Here are ten quick steps to writing your Will; Continue reading

Are there even fewer Americans without Wills?

A number of surveys over the last few years have reported that anywhere from 55 percent to 64 percent of Americans have not written their Wills. However, one under-reported statistic is the number of people who have their Will in place, but made it so long ago, that it no longer reflects their current circumstance. At USLegalWills.com we wanted to explore the current state of Will writing in the US, and delve deeper into the issue of outdated Wills.

Executive summary

The USLegalWills.com survey was conducted within the United States by Google Consumer Surveys, June 2016, among 2,012 adults aged 18 and older, and has a root square mean error of 1.4%.

Results are weighted by age, gender, and region. For full information on Google Consumer Surveys’ methodology and validity, visit here.

  1. Across all age groups 28.4 percent of Americans had up-to-date Wills. 8.6% had a Will but it was out-of-date. 63% had no Will at all. This means that 71.6 percent of Americans do not have an up-to-date Will.
  2. Even when we focus on Americans over 35, two thirds don’t have an up-to-date Will.
  3. Only half of Americans over the age of 65 have up-to-date Wills in place.
  4. One in six Americans over the age of 65 have a Will that is out of date.
  5. Wealthy Americans are no more likely to have written their Will.
  6. Wealthy Americans are more likely to have an out-of-date Will.

Number of Americans without Wills

Our aggregated numbers show that 71.6 percent of Americans do not have an up-to-date Will. We rarely see the number of out-of-date Wills reported, but it makes a significant difference to the story and clearly demonstrates that there are significant improvements needed in the way that Will writing is presented to Americans.

Wills

We know that everybody needs a Will, and consistently over the years we’ve heard that around two thirds of Americans don’t have their Wills in place, but now knowing that nearly ten percent have an out-of-date Will adds to this concern. Continue reading

Digital assets – meet LifeLocker, the essential Executor tool

The issue of Digital assets has come up again in the mainstream press. It was covered on the CBC in Canada and then was picked up by media outlets around the World. The Washington post ran with the headline

Her dying husband left her the house and the car, but he forgot the Apple password

The Daily Mail in the UK also ran the story with the headline “Widow who wanted her dead husband’s Apple ID so she could play games on their iPad is refused and told to get a COURT order instead”. The Sydney Morning Herald also alerted its readers. Google news is claiming 19,000 separate news articles about Peggy Bush, the 72 year old Canadian widow who simply wanted to play some games on the family iPad. The card game stopped working so she wanted to update it. To do this, she needed her late husband’s Apple ID password.

The best option that Apple gave her was to create a new Apple ID, but this would mean re-purchasing all of the games that had already been purchased by her husband. There was no way of transferring the games from one Apple ID account to another.

Apple suggested that they would only be able to release the User ID and password of the account with a court order. The general reaction was that this was a little unsympathetic to the situation; all of Peggy’s late husband’s assets had been successfully transferred, and nobody, including banks and insurance companies, had required a court order to do this. Continue reading

A simple Will – From $0 to $1,000. How much should I pay?

You are already doing better than the vast majority of adults in the US. You know that you need a Will, and you are starting to do something about it. You have started researching the approaches to preparing a simple Will, and now you are thoroughly confused. How can it be that the same simple Will can cost absolutely nothing on some websites, and can cost a thousand dollars with an estate planning attorney. What exactly will you be getting in each case? and how much should you really be paying to write a simple Last Will and Testament?

What is a Will?

The most basic definition is that a Last Will and Testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his or her estate and provides for the distribution of his or her property at death.

There are three key elements to a simple Will. Continue reading

The six most common errors in a do it yourself Will.

Every once in a while a news article appears that describes how a person made a mistake when preparing a “do it yourself Will”. The legal profession often latch onto these articles as a warning for anybody thinking of preparing their own do it yourself Will, suggesting that if the person in the article made a mistake, it follows that you should probably seek legal advice.

Clearly people make mistakes. Even lawyers make mistakes when preparing Wills, like this one who had a couple accidentally sign each other’s Wills. However, it would be disingenuous to use this example as a cautionary tale, and suggest that you should avoid using a lawyer because they always get things wrong.

So I have gathered up some recent news articles, and looked at some of our own support questions and listed the six most common mistakes people make when preparing a do it yourself Will.

do it yourself Wills Continue reading

Cost of a Will – from zero to $2000 and somewhere in between

Yeah right, $35 for a Last Will and Testament. There’s no way it can be legal

One of the ongoing challenges we face is explaining to people how our Wills at $39.95, can work in the same way as a Will written for $800. But also differentiate our service from a free download site, where the cost of a Will may be nothing or at most $5. So what exactly is the difference between a $5 Will, at $35 Will at USLegalWills.com and an $800 Will drawn up by an estate planning attorney?

Cost of a Will

When the cost of a Will is too little

Why would I pay $35 for a Will from you guys when I can get download one for free at freelegalforms.com

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How to write a Will: your 10 step guide to success!

Everybody knows that they need to write a Will, but the stats show that only about a third of adults in the US have managed to get it done. Some say it’s the cost that puts people off, others say that it’s finding the time to make an appointment. In our experience of fielding calls through our customer service center, the real issue is that most people have no idea where to start. A very common call we receive is “I know I need to write a Will, what do I do?”. Here we have ten steps to go through to prepare your Will.

1. Choose your approach

You can take one of three approached to write a Will. The cheapest is to use a blank sheet of paper, or a blank form kit, and fill in the blanks explaining what you want to happen to your things after you have died. Continue reading

10 ridiculous warnings lawyers give about online Will services

In the last week alone I have seen a number of people asking the question on the internet “Is it okay to prepare my own Will using an online Will service”. I have been shocked at the amount of misinformation that has been posted in reply.

To be clear, I am defending an interactive online Will service like the one at USLegalWills.com, I am not suggesting that you should prepare your Will using a blank form DIY Will kit that you could buy in Staples. The blank form kits are a disaster, but the online Will services are an excellent mid-ground for somebody who doesn’t want the inconvenience and cost of a lawyer, but still needs to have their Will in place.

These are some of the most egregious, incorrect warnings that I have seen in the last week.

1. You must use a lawyer

Written by a lawyer in response to a question on Quora.

Online Will service

 

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The Online Will

We are seeing an increasing number of articles about “online Wills” but the definition seems to be vague. Let us explore what exactly is meant by an “online Will”.

What is a Last Will and Testament

There are clear laws as to what constitutes a legal Last Will and Testament and these laws are quite consistent across all jurisdictions. To be a legal Will, the document must be written or typed on a piece of paper, and usually it must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses who have nothing to gain from the contents of the Will. We say “usually” because in some jurisdictions they accept a “holographic Will” which is entirely written in your own handwriting, and does not require the two witnesses.

There is one other exception; Continue reading