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Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, Americans Rush to Make Online Wills

Published April 13, 2020 by Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC
Americans Rush to Make Online Wills Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

As the coronavirus spreads throughout the United States and projections indicate that tens of thousands of people will succumb to the deadly virus, various publications are reporting that Americans are rushing to create wills through online services.

While having a written will is advisable, making a will online can be a costly mistake.

The attraction of online wills typically is saving money and time. Online wills cost anywhere from $19.95 to $225, according to Bankrate. However, one-size-fits-all wills often fail to take into account important differences in probate law from state to state. A computer algorithm is no substitute for a knowledgeable probate lawyer.

A local lawyer who focuses on will and estate law will be sure your will adheres to state law and, more importantly, that it fully and accurately addresses your needs and wishes.

It is easy to make mistakes when drafting a will online with only an algorithm to advise you. The directions may be confusing. But whether it’s a human or programming error, an improperly drafted will and testament can be costly if it goes to probate and problems arise.

We strongly urge you to discuss a new or changed will with an experienced estate planning attorney wherever you reside. During the coronavirus pandemic, our estate planning lawyers at the Brady Cobin Law Group are following social distancing guidelines recommended by health officials. Our dedicated attorneys are available for remote consultations to answer your questions.

Contact us at (919) 782-3500 or fill out our online form to schedule your consultation and learn more about how we can meet with you and discuss your needs for a will.

Making A Will In The Time Of Coronavirus

A CNBC report dated March 25 said online will companies were claiming double- and triple-digit growth in business over the previous two weeks. Many of those seeking online wills are parents with minor children or people over 50 who are concerned about contracting the coronavirus.

“As online wills grow in popularity, a chorus of lawyers increasingly cautions against using them,” CNBC says. The article quotes three lawyers, including the founder of an online will company, who discuss the drawbacks of drafting a will online.

Among the primary issues they cite, and with which we concur, are:

  • Each state has requirements for a will to be considered valid or to be admitted without extra judicial proceedings. North Carolina’s are very specific requirements. Get them wrong or leave them out and you will leave behind a costly problem for your heirs to sort out.
  • Contradictory or unclear information as to how assets should be disbursed can lead to a will being contested. “If there was a lawyer, they would understand the nuances of how things need to be written, and the client can make sure that what they really want is being conveyed in the documents,” Sarah Wentz, a Philadelphia lawyer, said.

In an NPR interview about online wills in the age of coronavirus, Miami estate planning attorney Mildred Gomez cautioned that each state has its own execution requirements. “Some states require two witnesses and a notary, other states perhaps only one witness. Some states currently allow for online execution of these documents while other states don’t,” she said.

In fact, North Carolina law requires the testator (the person whose will it is) to sign the will and have two witnesses sign it for it to be valid. The testator must either sign in front of the witnesses or tell them that the signature on the will is theirs. Witnesses need to sign in front of the testator, but witnesses don’t need to sign at the same time.

If You Need A Will, We Can Help

An estate planning attorney from the Brady Cobin Law Firm can meet with you virtually to guide you through the process of creating a will or an estate plan. You can learn a lot from doing research online, but meeting with an attorney will give you an opportunity to ask questions, learn about North Carolina’s laws and craft a will that is valid and reflects your desires for providing for your family.

A properly drafted last will and testament allows you to precisely control what is done with your assets, who should be the legal guardian of your minor children and who will be designated administrator of your estate with responsibility for making sure your final wishes are followed.

You can have confidence in the validity of your will if you work with an attorney specializing in estate planning. An experienced estate planning lawyer understands the nuances of probate administration, the legal process that manages the assets and liabilities left behind by a recently deceased person.

Failing to understand issues that can arise in probate administration could mean unexpected consequences and expenses for your family after you’re gone.

You may think you are saving time and money by crafting a will online, but it’s your family and other loved ones who will find out whether your online will is valid. An in-office meeting (or for now a remote meeting) with an estate planning attorney will spare your family legal issues, fees and time spent in meetings during an already stressful time to come.

Don’t Put Off Preparing Your Will

The pandemic has many people thinking about the risk of contracting COVID-19 and trying to plan for an uncertain future. In good times or bad, if you have loved ones who depend on you, you should have a will and other estate planning documents set up to protect the people you care about in case the unforeseen should occur.

The Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC, has more than 35 years of experience helping people across North Carolina make smart plans for final disposition of their estates. While we must temporarily reshape the way we do business to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus, we are still here to serve you.

Whether you need to write a will for the first time or want to modify an outdated will, our attorneys can help. Contact our law firm today to set up a remote consultation.

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