Online Will Kits: A Spark of Innovation in a Traditional Industry
By Space Coast Daily // July 6, 2020
Planning out and signing a legally enforceable will is one of those things that we all know we should do, but always find a reason to keep putting off. The difficulty of coming to terms with one’s own mortality is perhaps the most commonly cited rationale for why this may be the case.
Another likely reason is the fact that putting together a will tends to be a stressful and time-consuming venture, a venture that has traditionally necessitated the hiring of an expensive estate lawyer to complete.
Fortunately, after criticizing the pricing and elitism of traditional estate lawyers, entrepreneurs in the legal industry have since developed a possible solution in online will kits.
An online will kit is a do-it-yourself will program that provide individuals with a streamlined, low-cost, and stress-free way of planning a personal or family will.
If you live in Canada and would like to get started with an online will kit, the three most popular providers are Willful, Formal Will, and, our personal favorite, Canadian Legal Wills.
What are Online Will Kits?
An online will kit is a software and documentation package that allows you to create and sign your own legally enforceable will.
Unlike a traditionally planned will, online will kits do not require you to contract the services of an expensive estate lawyer.
Similar to online tax return kits, an online will kit will guide you through the process of categorizing your estate and planning your will.
Don’t worry, while this may sound like an intimidating process, it’s actually quite simple. Most of the information you need will be automatically generated by your online will kit program.
When you get to the stage of listing specific asset holdings, you’ll be prompted with user-specific questions and detailed advice. If you have a problem filling out your will, you can ask questions or request advice by chatting online with a dedicated will kit specialist.
Why Choose an Online Will Kit?
• Affordability: The cost of a basic online will kit ranges from $30 to $300 (specific pricing will depend on provider selection and estate complexity). In comparison, a traditional estate lawyer can charge up to $1,200 for a complete family will.
• Simplicity: Online will kits cut through the estate planning jargon and complex legalese, allowing you to put together a comprehensive will without undue stress or confusion.
• Flexibility: Online will kits offer a wide array of different estate planning functions, including Power of Attorney and Living Will. Depending on your provider, online will kits may also provide support for trust creation, debt forgiveness arrangements, and pet clauses.
Are Online Will Kits Safe?
Traditional estate lawyers are frequently targeted by cybercriminals and data miners, usually with the aim of accessing sensitive asset estate information.
To keep your personal information secure, online will kit providers use advanced 256-bit SSL encryption on any data passing between your computer and their servers.
In addition to SSL encryption, most online will kit providers will also encrypt pre-stored user data with a robust layer of RSA encryption.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Physically Review My Online Will?
No, you do not need to hire an expensive lawyer to complete or review your online will kit. Remember, once they are printed and signed, your online will kit papers will become a legally enforceable document.
However, if you’re preparing a very complex will or if you just want a second opinion, you always have the option of booking a brief document review consultation with a traditional estate lawyer. In some cases, your online will kit provider may offer a similar in-house service for an additional fee.
Future Disruption in the Legal Industry
The surging popularity and increasing utility of online will kits is symptomatic of a broader trend of technological disruption in the legal industry.
Even as estate lawyers compete against ever more sophisticated will kit software, other sectors of the legal industry are scrambling to keep abreast of ongoing developments in automation, machine learning, and blockchain technology.
In particular, the field of contract law offers several pertinent examples of technological disruption in the legal industry.
For instance, as legaltech services have become more ubiquitous, traditional contract law firms have struggled to keep up with an industry-wide shift towards smart contracts, a self-executing transaction protocol that is written into the code of a distributed ledger or established blockchain network.
In legal theory, traditional contract law is frequently undermined by systemic contract resolution issues, including the absence of cross-party trust, insecure storage of sensitive data, or non-binding/imprecise contract directives.
Smart contract technology addresses these issues, offering contract holders and executors access to a transparent, secure, and precise platform for facilitating, verifying, and enforcing digital contracts.
With innovation and entrepreneurship in the legal industry showing no sign of slowing down, aspiring lawyers may want to consider augmenting their legal degree with additional specialization in computer science or information technology.
For the rest of us, the accessibility and affordability of products like online will kits is an encouraging sign for the future of legaltech, proving that innovation can be brought to even the most traditional segments of the legal industry.
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