Need help creating an easy will and last testament
May 5, 2020 7:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm not dying anytime soon (I hope) but inspired by this article urging people to get their affairs in order due to the sudden nature of the coronavirus, I thought I should too.

I'm healthy, not old and unmarried, will leave everything to my immediate family members and have very little debt. I don't want any life-saving or -extending measures.

I see some free will-writing sites online. Does anyone have experience with those? What is their business model? I don't want to be plugging personal information into some random site.

Are there any free off-line methods I can use?

I also don't want to go about recounting all my investments and passwords. Can I just say, "here's where I track the performance of all my accounts" and "here's where I keep all the passwords" and leave it at that?
posted by Roy Batty to Law & Government (12 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I think the business model is 'garbage in, garbage out.' However, a lawyer (MeFi Wiki) with a practice that includes a focus on estate planning in your jurisdiction may be able to offer you a fixed-fee package for documents that meet your needs and are signed/witnessed according to the applicable laws (and whatever accommodations are currently available due to Covid-19), so they are enforceable. You can also ask about how to protect your heirs from probate and taxes, and you can ask about planning for incapacity.

You also seem to be asking for legal advice when you ask about whether certain language will be effective, so I encourage you to consult with a lawyer so you can obtain accurate information pursuant to the laws that apply in your jurisdiction.
posted by katra at 8:59 PM on May 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Depending on where you are, a handwritten will, aka holographic will might be what you are looking for. I'm in California, and my will is a piece of paper written in my handwriting with a signature and date saying that I leave almost everything to someone except for some specific things to some other people and though IANAL I am under the impression that this will suffice and prevent headaches for my survivors in the event of my death (i.e. they will not have to go to probate). I'll be curious if someone chimes in here to say that I'm completely wrong and need to do things differently.
posted by gubenuj at 10:02 PM on May 5, 2020

To answer the part about digital assets, there’s lots of articles online, but this is a good starting point. It can be a bit tedious but I found it helpful to use a digital password manager consistently for most everything, and in my digital assets instructions, focused my mindset on what might be helpful for my digital asset executor to navigate a potentially overwhelming task. My digital assets doc is straightforward, and starts with my cell phone unlock code, password manager master password, laptop password, and general instructions for the types of accounts as mentioned in the article.

It took 2 days but my passwords are now all well organized and I have peace of mind that I’ve done my best to make this easier for my beneficiaries. Don’t forget you should review periodically in case it needs updating.
posted by hampanda at 10:51 PM on May 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'll be curious if someone chimes in here to say that I'm completely wrong and need to do things differently.

I can't offer advice about how the laws in any jurisdiction (e.g. CA DOJ - Estate Planning) apply to a specific situation (e.g. Albertson & Davidson, LLP, "This is called a holographic Will and it can be admitted to probate") and what you need to do (besides consult with an attorney in your state), but I can say that these types of questions (e.g. Family Caregiver Alliance) became very real for me when I had to quickly prepare for potentially life-threatening emergency surgery, and because IAAL and wanted to ensure that my estate planning documents were enforceable, I wrote drafts using template forms I had that were tailored to my state and then took them to a local lawyer for review, got advice and then followed their instructions for signing, witnesses, and notarization according to the requirements of my jurisdiction. My goal was to reduce stress for my family, including by making sure my health care wishes were known and by streamlining as many estate processes as possible.
posted by katra at 11:48 PM on May 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

There was a great site founded in 2013 called 'Get Your Shit Together' ( by a woman who lost her husband unexpectedly. I see that the site was bought out by which offers the same service for wills and end of life planning, but I'm not sure if it's a free service.

You can still get some good references from the original founders ORG site though at I think the checklist would be a pretty good starting point.
posted by WhyamIhereagain at 11:55 PM on May 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

In Australia, there are plenty of people offering DIY Will kits. I bought one a few years ago for $25 from a legal firm. It was good; well set out and easy to use. Not for complex arrangements obviously, but your requirements seem minimal. The risk of doing it in a way that ends up being considered non-compliant with your local laws is that your government may take a large portion of your estate. Where I live, dying intestate (without a will) means the government will automatically take 1/3 of an un-partnered person's assets. This will no doubt be different in other places.

Also, here we have a separate thing for end of life medical care, called an Advanced Care Directive, which allows you to specify what you want and don't want in the case of a debilitating illness or health crisis or simply when facing death. Worth completing whatever your local version of that is if you have the stomach for it. Especially if you don't want to be resuscitated after a massive stroke or heart attack. Otherwise doctors will do whatever they can to revive you.
posted by mewsic at 3:12 AM on May 6, 2020

I recommend Cake 100%, it was easy to use and made the whole project feel manageable. But they don't walk you through the will itself, just all the parts of your plan (eg, what do you want done for your pets?).

For the will, the Nolo guides were most helpful to me. I got a book out of the library but their website is also useful.
posted by epanalepsis at 6:54 AM on May 6, 2020

You will find lots of debate about whether will software is sufficient or whether you need a lawyer. Right now, just use software (paid, not free- but the price is virtually zero compared to the cost of a lawyer). I was happy with Willmaker, which is the industry leader.* Includes will, health directive, etc. Download, spend a few hours, and you're done. In the future, you can always choose to have a lawyer review it, but given your simple situation (no kids, no business), you shouldn't need to.

*Note: Does not work in Louisiana. Louisiana is weird,
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:28 AM on May 6, 2020

I'm on team "Get some paid software, and it will get you 95% there" What GYST will tell you is to make sure you have

- a will
- a durable power of attorney
- a heathcare proxy

So make sure you have all those documents. Most importantly is that you have an executor (or someone who is not in conflict with your executor) who knows what you want. In that case, if things change in your life between making the documents and if something should happen to you, you'll be more assured that your wishes will be respected. If your life gets more complicated in the future, you can always take your internet-will (again, check with your state's rules) to an actual estate lawyer and you'll be partway there already.
posted by jessamyn at 7:50 AM on May 6, 2020

I had earlier meant to link to this FPP: Medicaid’s Dark Secret, because it includes a link and excerpts from an article that discusses one of the reasons why it can be important to proactively plan to avoid probate, and includes comments from people talking about what can otherwise happen.

One of the reasons I got legal advice about applicable laws is because I didn't want to leave a possibly time-consuming and costly mess for anyone to untangle by only drafting a will, especially when other documents (ABA - Estate Planning Info & FAQs) might help avoid the probate process or other challenges related to incapacity (Mayo Clinic - Living wills and advance directives). As noted in the MeFi Wiki Get a lawyer page, you can shop around for attorneys, and free or low-cost legal assistance may be available.

And based on my rushed omg-the-sky-is-falling experience with getting legal advice and assistance, I encourage you to seek legal advice proactively, while you are healthy and not in any kind of emergency situation.
posted by katra at 9:37 AM on May 6, 2020

A close friend had a major stroke a weeks ago. She kept her finances separate from her husband’s and now he can’t get in to any of her accounts or social media or anything. Buy a small notebook, and spend time writing down all your user names and passwords for each one. And then just tell someone you are close to where you keep it.
posted by raisingsand at 7:49 PM on May 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

My wife and I just got out wills and powers of attorney taken care of by a lawyer. It took one longish interview and a meeting to sign the documents to get things done.

The whole thing was only $300, which seems like a good deal since know we know what would happen to our daughter should the most unfortunate occur.

Some things are important enough to throw a little time and money at them!
posted by Fister Roboto at 7:58 PM on May 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

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