Over the last few years there’s been an uptake of online will writing services across the globe. The pandemic has only helped grow this still relatively niche service. This tool is an interesting solution that could be part of your legacy toolbox – especially as Generation X is entering the stage of writing their first will. This two-part blog series seeks to offer some clarity about this new and interesting service so you can make an informed decision about its place in your legacy program.
What are online will writing services?
Simply put, they are tech companies that hire licensed legal professionals to carefully word estate planning documents. They offer this service online, and depending on the jurisdiction, individuals may, or may not, need to have the will verified by a legal professional. Some vendors even offer websites or platforms that connect on the charity’s website.
Are online wills for everyone?
Sadly no and this is incredibly important to understand. The following are examples of individuals who should not use an online will:
The individual plans to exclude a spouse or a child from their will.
Depending on the jurisdiction where they live, they may not be allowed to exclude them – that is the case for countries that traditionally follow some version of the Napoleonic Code (although many have been amended since 1804). For instance, in France, Spain and other countries have forced heirs integrated in estate law which means that a spouse and children automatically receive a percentage of the estate (usually on a sliding scale based on the number of children).
If the individual has children from multiple partners or has a child with a disability that receives government benefits.
Because these cases tend to be more complex and involve different individuals and/or government agencies, it’s best to seek advice from a legal professional.
If the individual has assets located internationally.
Of course, this will involve laws from different countries which may not be compatible. For instance, one country may only accept a olographic will whereas another may not. The individual must be advised to draft a will with a legal advisor. They may be required to have a will in the country where the assets are located. For that, they will have to seek advice from a lawyer in that country.
A sophisticated tax planning.
This could happen if the individual is the owner of a company, a shareholder, or any other type of complex tax planning situation. Because of possible tax implications on several fronts, it’s best they seek legal advice.
You’re probably wondering what you’re supposed to do with this, right?
If you do offer an online will writing service to your donors, be on the lookout for indicators that any of these situations applies to your donor and then nudge them towards a legal professional. Of course, you cannot be expected to know your donor’s intimate details of their life situation but when having legacy conversations, it’s astounding how much we discover over the years.
This is just the beginning of what online will writing services can offer. In the next installment, we’ll delve into their advantages and disadvantages for charities and for donors.