Find answers to your legal, practical, and technical questions
WillMaker provides a basic will that works for many people. It is private, easy to make, and low-cost. But it isn’t for everyone.
Our will might not be right for you if you have:
WillMaker allows you to produce a valid and effective will designed to meet most needs. But there are some restrictions built into the program. Some of the restrictions are designed to prevent you from writing in conditions that may not be legally valid. Others are intended to keep the program simple and easy to use.
Here is a list of features that WillMaker’s will does not provide. If these are things you want your will to do, see a lawyer for help.
Read details about What WillMaker's Will Cannot Do.
(And here is some information about What the WillMaker Will CAN Do)
The key difference between a will and a living trust is that property that passes through a will goes through probate and property that passes through a living trust does not. So most people who make basic living trusts do so to save their families time and money (by keeping their property out of probate.
Other than that wills and living trusts perform many of the same functions. They both documents provide a revisable way to distribute your property, and provide management for property that you leave to young beneficiaries, Here are a few other differences:
You can use a will to :
You can use a living trust to:
Learn more about the differences between wills and living trusts.
Yes, most people who make a living trust—like the one you make with WillMaker—should also make a backup will to take care of a few things that you can't do in your trust, like name guardians for minor children, name an executor, and name beneficiaries for any property that you don't put into your living trust. In your backup will, you can name specific beneficiaries for your non-trust property, or you can make a pour-over will by naming your trust as the beneficiary of your non-trust property.
Learn more about making Backup and Pour-Over Wills.
In addition to a will, most people would also benefit from making WillMaker’s Health Care Directive and Durable Power. In these two documents, you appoint trusted people to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf.
Beyond those three essential documents, you might also use a Living Trust or a Transfer on Death Deed to avoid probate.
Finally, consider writing a Letter to Survivors. In this letter, you can leave your loved ones detailed explanations about your decisions, some general thoughts about your life, or a final goodbye.
No. With WillMaker, each of you must make your own will, even if you both agree about how your property is to be distributed.
That said, with the download version of WillMaker you and your spouse can easily create identical wills -- that is, two separate wills in which all the provisions (such as beneficiaries and children's guardians) are the same. If you want to do this, look for the "Duplicate for Spouse" button provided on the Congratulations screen at the end of the will interview (after the Print Preview screen). The online version of WillMaker does not yet offer the duplicate-for-spouse feature.
Yes, you can make a pour-over will with WillMaker. To do so, when making your will, you will name your trust as beneficiary using the trustee's name and the name of the trust. For example: "John Doe as trustee of the John Doe Living Trust, dated January 1, 20xx."
Keep in mind that the property you leave through the will may have to go through probate when you die. Because living trusts are designed to avoid probate, if you leave too much property through your will, you may end up thwarting your own intentions. Before you make a pour-over will, be sure you know how much property your state allows you to pass through your will without triggering probate proceedings.
You have no legal obligation to leave your children property. If you decide to leave a child nothing, make sure your intent is clear. Otherwise, the child may qualify as an overlooked heir (called "pretermitted" in legal jargon) who might be able to claim a portion of the your estate. With WillMaker will, you can make your intentions clear by naming the child in the Family and then leaving that child nothing in the Property section. Later in the interview, the program will ask you if you’re sure you don’t want to leave anything to that child. And if the answer is yes, your document will print a statement that your failure to leave property to that child is intentional.
Read more about disinheriting children.
Maybe. If you intend to leave your spouse or registered domestic partner very little or no property, you may run into some legal roadblocks. All states have some legal protections for spouses, but how this is done depends on the state.
Common law property states protect a surviving spouse or partner from being completely disinherited by requiring that a surviving spouse receive a specific percentage of a deceased spouse's property. Community Property states offer protection before death by having spouses share income during the marriage.
Learn more about Your Spouse’s Right to Inherit from You.
No. You must sign your will in front of two witnesses, but no state requires that a will be notarized to be valid.
That said, some states allow you to attach a self-proving affidavit, which must be notarized, to your will. A self-proving affidavit is a separate document, signed by your witnesses, that makes it simpler to admit your will to probate after your death. If your state offers this option, your WillMaker will prints with a self-proving affidavit.
Read more about self-proving affidavits.
While it's legally possible to make a financial power of attorney that "springs" into effect when you become incapacitated, doing so is rarely a good idea. In fact, creating a springing power of attorney may cause more problems than it solves.
Under a springing power, when the time comes to use the document, your agent will have to get a "determination" of your incapacity. In other words, someone – usually a doctor – must certify that you can no longer make your own decisions. This process creates delay, privacy issues, and problems about having to define your incapacity before you become incapacitated.
With some caveats, you can avoid these problems by making a durable power of attorney that takes effect as soon as you sign it, like the one you can make with WillMaker.
Read more about The Problem with Springing Powers.
In many states, the law requires durable powers of attorney to have "warnings" or "notices" at the beginning or end (or both) of the document. Very often these sections of text are required to be a certain size, capitalized, or bolded (or all three).
As a safeguard, WillMaker provides a notice to the principal for every state, even if state law doesn't require it.
Unlike the other states' laws, Louisiana law is derived from Napoleonic code. This makes Louisiana estate planning law very different from the laws of the rest of the country, and WillMaker doesn't address Louisiana's unique requirements.
Louisiana residents may find some of the forms and much of the information in WillMaker generally useful. But when it comes to making binding legal forms, Nolo can not guarantee that they will be valid in Louisiana. If you live in Louisiana and you need to make a will, durable power of attorney, or health care directive, see a Louisiana lawyer for help.
Very few wills are ever challenged in court. When they are, it's usually by a close relative who feels somehow cheated out of a share of the deceased person's property. To get an entire will invalidated, someone must go to court and prove that it suffers from a fatal flaw: the signature was forged, you weren't of sound mind when you made the will, or you were unduly influenced by someone.
Learn more about Grounds for Challenging a Will.
If you don't make a will or use some other legal method to transfer your property when you die, state law called "intestacy laws" will determine what happens to your property. Each state sets out an order of priority for your surviving relatives. Generally, it will go to your spouse and children or, if you have neither, to your next closest relatives. If no relatives (not even distant ones) can be found to inherit your property, it will go to the state.
In addition, in the absence of a will, and if the other parent is unavailable or unfit, a court will name a guardian to care for your children and their property.
Beware that if you are part of an unmarried couple, your surviving partner will not inherit anything, so you might be especially motivated to create a solid estate plan. (A few states still have exceptions for registered domestic partners.)
To learn more about what happens if you die without a will, read How Is an Estate Settled If There's No Will: Intestate Succession.
Creating a basic will rarely involves complicated legal rules, and the hardest part of making a will might be figuring out what property you own and who will get it when you die—questions you can answer best.
WillMaker, which has been in wide and successful use for over three decades, prompts you to answer the right questions—and produces a will that fits your circumstances and is legal in your state.
But you may have a question about your particular situation that WillMaker does not answer. Or perhaps you have a very large estate and want to engage in some sophisticated tax planning. Or you may simply be comforted by having a lawyer give your WillMaker will a once-over. Whenever you have concerns such as these or simply feel that you are in over your head, it may be wise to consult an attorney with knowledge and experience in wills and estate planning.
For more information, see Making a Will: Are Lawyers Optional?
You can get more information about WillMaker in the WillMaker FAQ. And you’ll find more information about estate planning in the estate planning section of WillMaker’s Legal Manual or in the Estate Planning section of Nolo.com.
Keep in mind that Nolo’s Customer Support representatives can answer questions about using WillMaker, but they can’t answer legal questions.
Both! When you buy WillMaker Plus or All-Access, you can choose to make your estate planning documents online or with the software. You can use both, but the two platforms don’t share data, so the documents you make using one platform will not be available on the other.
WillMaker Starter users can get the downloadable software by upgrading to Plus or All-Access.
Until recently, WillMaker was available only as downloadable software. Nolo now offers the same dependable, easy-to-use forms in an online app. WillMaker Plus and All-Access customers have access to both platforms.
So, it’s your choice which to use. Try one or the other -- or test out both. Just keep in mind that you can’t transfer documents or data from one platform to the other.
While the documents, interviews, instructions, and support information are nearly identical in the online and download versions of WillMaker, there are some important differences.
With the online version of WillMaker, you:
With the download version of WillMaker, you:
No. Unlike the other states’ laws, Louisiana law is derived from the Napoleonic code. This makes Louisiana's estate planning laws substantially different from the laws of the rest of the country, and WillMaker doesn’t address Louisiana’s unique requirements. You can create a basic Louisiana will with our simple online form.
WillMaker makes it easy for you and your immediate family to create wills, health care directives, powers of attorney, and other legal documents for planning your estate and handling personal and financial matters.
You don't need legal training or estate planning experience to create documents with WillMaker. The onscreen interviews provide easy-to-understand guidance every step of the way.
Each document you can create with Quicken WillMaker has its own interview. You click through the questions and answer them at your own pace. When you finish an interview, the program combines your answers with the appropriate legal language and displays the completed document for you to review.
You can produce any document in WillMaker in one sitting, but if possible, take your time. Read the "Helpful Information" section of the screen and consider it thoughtfully. You can always take a break and come back later; it's easy to pick up exactly where you left off.
When you're satisfied with your document, print and sign it, following the signing instructions that WillMaker provides for every document. These instructions tell you how to finalize your document and make it legal; for instance, signing your will in front of two witnesses or having a power of attorney notarized.
If your permanent residence is outside the United States, you should not use WillMaker.
If you are out of the country temporarily — for school or a job, or because you serve in the military, you probably still have ties with a particular state that make it your legal residence. In that case, you can still use WillMaker. For example, if you were born in Wisconsin, lived there for many years, are registered to vote there, and receive mail there in care of your parents, who still live in Milwaukee, then Wisconsin is your legal residence for purposes of making a will even if you are spending three months on sabbatical in Europe.
If you’re not sure where you legally reside, consult a lawyer.
Yes, you may use WillMaker for their entire family. And you can use it to make more than one of any document. You can make a will for yourself, your wife, your brother, your parents, and so on.
How you finalize your document depends on 1) which document you’re making, 2) your state of residence, and in some cases, 3) what you choose to include in the document. Generally:
You must also sign and date each document. All WillMaker documents come with signing instructions specific to your state.
Do not use the WillMaker will to leave money or property directly to a person with special needs. The management provided under WillMaker documents does not sufficiently provide for special needs, and it does not protect eligibility for government benefits.
However, you can use your WillMaker will to leave money or property to a special needs trust. If you name the special needs trust as a beneficiary of your will, the money will go into the trust rather than directly to the person with special needs. Naming a special needs trust as a beneficiary will help your loved one remain eligible for government benefits and provide property management tailored to your loved one's needs.
To learn more about special needs trusts:
No, you can't print a blank version of any WillMaker document. The main reason for this is that the text of the documents — what's included and what's not included — depends on your answers to the interviews. So documents can only be 'built' after you've answered all of the interview questions.
WillMaker takes you through a step-by-step interview process and then uses your answers to create customized documents that you can download and print. Learn more about How WillMaker Works.
If you have downloaded the WillMaker software to your computer, look for answers to questions about that version of WillMaker on the WillMaker Download Support page.