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Is my estate too big for DIY online estate planning?

It depends. The first step is to examine the size of your estate.

With a simple, straightforward estate, you may complete estate planning documents online without legal counsel. For instance, if your assets remain modest and your goal is to make your spouse or children beneficiaries, you may be able to make all your documents online. If you go this route, however, be sure to research what is required for signing your estate planning documents in your state.

If your estate involves larger, more complex assets or you have minor children, you may want to seek legal advice before signing such important documents.

What estate planning documents can I complete online?

There are a variety of basic online estate planning documents that can be completed with ease. They are:

Certain documents, however, may need to be signed on paper, or in front of a notary, while others can be electronically signed.

What do I need to know before completing estate planning documents online?

Before completing these legal documents online, here are some tips to get you prepared:

  • You may need to include required state-specific language. States can differ on the specific language required in order for a document to be valid, so you’ll need to pay close attention to these requirements or ask a Rocket Lawyer network attorney to review your document. This review can be particularly important when it comes to your Medical Power of Attorney and Advance Directive.
  • Signature requirements for each document may differ from state to state, so you may need to sign in the presence of witnesses, a notary public, or both.
  • Reviewing your documents with an experienced lawyer can bring peace of mind that everything is covered and in place for loved ones to follow.

Most states allow online completion of many estate planning documents. What differs is the signature requirements. You may need to print the documents out and sign in the presence of witnesses or a notary public, or you may be able to use electronic signatures, depending on the state you live in. Also, while you may draft and sign your documents online, some states will not accept electronic copies.

Can I sign my estate planning documents online?

Whether or not you can sign estate planning documents online will depend on what state you reside in when making them and the laws that govern these documents.

For example, Washington and other states have adopted a law called the Uniform Electronic Wills Act (UEWA) which allows for wills to be signed online. The UEWA changes the requirements surrounding the execution of a will, allowing for online signatures as long as, at the time of those signatures, the will is in readable text.

Washington also recognizes electronic wills with e-signatures made within the laws of other states as well.

States and territories that have adopted UEWA, include:

  • Colorado.
  • Idaho.
  • Minnesota.
  • North Dakota.
  • Utah.
  • U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Washington, D.C..
  • Washington state.

Six states have enacted their own versions, and include:

  • Arizona.
  • Florida.
  • Illinois.
  • Indiana.
  • Maryland.
  • Nevada.

Also, to date, two states have introduced bills similar to the Act:

  • Georgia.
  • Massachusetts.

Who do I give copies of my estate plan to?

Once you complete your legal documents online, you may want to share copies with the following people:

  • Your executor (the person you select to be the manager of your estate after your death).
  • Your children or other family members, if you want them to know in advance what is included. You can limit this to, say, your Advance Directive or Health Care Power of Attorney initially if you wish.
  • A qualified custodian, as defined by UEWA.

Under EUWA, your will is maintained by a third party, or a qualified custodian, as a protective measure and as a way to prevent fraud. In Washington, for example, a qualified custodian is:

  • A suitable individual over the age of 18 who resides in Washington state at the time the will is electronically signed.
  • A recognized and authorized trust company.
  • A nonprofit, if permitted by their own bylaws or articles of incorporation and as long as they remain in compliance with Title 24 RCW.
  • A professional service corporation, professional limited liability company, or partnership of attorneys.
  • A county will repository where the testator resides.

Those who are not qualified to be a custodian include minors, certain convicted persons, beneficiaries, and heirs.

If you have more questions about estate planning, or completing estate planning documents online, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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