WillMaker Will FAQs

How do I know if the WillMaker will is right for me?

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:

  • complicated property (for example, a shared business)
  • difficult family relationships (for example, you're worried that someone might contest your will), or
  • complex wishes for your property (for example, you want to put conditions on gifts)

Learn more about what WillMaker's Will Can Do and What WillMaker's Will Cannot Do.

What are the limitations of WillMaker's will?

WillMaker allows you to produce a valid and effective will designed to meet most people's needs. However, we've built some restrictions into the program. These restrictions ensure that your will stays valid and enforceable, and they 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.

  • Make bequests with conditions
  • Write joint wills
  • Explain the reasons for leaving your property
  • Name coguardians for children's property
  • Control property after death

Read details about What WillMaker's Will Cannot Do.

And here is some information about What the WillMaker Will CAN Do.

What will I need to have to make my WillMaker will?

It will be easier to make your will if you've gathered some information first:

  • a rough inventory of your property (but if you plan to leave everything to one or a few people, you can skip this)
  • a list of beneficiaries -- that is, the people who will get your property
  • a list of alternate beneficiaries -- the people who will inherit your property if your first-choice beneficiary dies before you
  • if you have young children, a list of your first and second choices for guardian
  • your children's birthdates
  • a list of your first and second choices for executor
  • information about debts that you want to forgive, including the date you lent the money and the amount you want to forgive

Can I use WillMaker to make a joint will with my spouse?

No. With WillMaker, you must make your own will, even if you both agree on how to distribute your property. There is solid legal reasoning behind this rule. Joint wills prevent the surviving spouse from changing their mind about what to do with the property after the first spouse dies. In effect, a joint will ties up the property for years and makes it impossible for the surviving spouse to react to changed circumstances. Also, many court battles are fought over whether the surviving spouse can revoke any part of the joint will. That's why joint wills have become very uncommon. If you want to restrict how your property can be used after your death, or make special provisions for children from a prior marriage, using a trust is usually a better solution.

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.

Can I use WillMaker to make a pour-over will?

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.

Learn more about pour-over wills in the WillMaker Legal Manual or on Nolo.com

Does WillMaker's will have a common disaster clause?

A clause that deals with what will happen if spouses die at the same time is sometimes referred to as a "common disaster" clause. WillMaker's will does not use a common disaster clause. Rather it provides for such an event using two common tools –- alternate beneficiaries and a survivorship requirement of 45 days. WillMaker's will states that if your beneficiary does not survive you by 45 days, then the gift goes to your alternate beneficiary.

Does WillMaker's will divide property "per stirpes" or "per capita"?

"Per stirpes" and "per capita" are legal jargon for the way children inherit property in place of a deceased parent—for example, one of these terms might govern how a granddaughter would inherit property left to her mother under a will, if her mother died before the will-maker. It's not necessary for your will to include these terms. In fact, it's better to avoid them because they can be interpreted in different ways. Instead, your WillMaker will lets you set out exactly whom you want to inherit your property, who will take the property if your first choice beneficiary doesn't survive you, and the shares that they will inherit.

Does WillMaker's will include a list of my property?

No, your WillMaker will doesn't contain a list of your property because it passes the bulk of your property either as your "entire estate" or as your "residuary" estate. That is, it passes all or most of your property to one or more people, without having to name individual items of property. The program also gives you a chance to leave specific items to different beneficiaries.

So with the WillMaker will, you do two things, 1) you leave the bulk of your entire estate to one or more people, and 2) if you choose to, you name beneficiaries for individual items that won't be included in the bulk gift. This is a common and useful way to leave property because most people want to leave almost everything to a spouse, a group of children, or other close friends or family members.

That said, you could list out every piece of property as specific bequests. But doing so would be time-consuming, leave lots of room for error, and require you to update your will often as your assets change. And even if you attempt to list every item of your property, you would still need to name a residuary beneficiary to get "everything else." There is no reason to name your primary beneficiary again and again for different pieces of property when you can just say "and everything else goes to Jim."

After you die, your executor will have to provide the court with a list of the property you owned at the time of your death. That will be tedious work, but it shouldn't be too onerous. If you want to help your executor with this task, you could leave a separate letter, with some suggestions or lists that will help inventory your property.

Can I use my WillMaker will to decide what will happen with my frozen embryos, sperm, or eggs?

No. If you have frozen embryos, eggs, or sperm in storage, do not use your WillMaker will to determine what will happen to them when you die.

Keep in mind that you may have already decided this (knowingly or not) because fertility clinic and storage facility contracts often include provisions for what will happen to embryos and other genetic material in case the parents or donors die.

However, if no plan is in place and if you want to make one, see an attorney for help. The law about who has a right to own, transfer, use or destroy embryos and genetic materials is new, changing, and state-specific. You'll need to find an attorney who is current with the law in your state. However, if no plan is in place and if you want to make one, see an attorney for help.

How do I tell my executor to sell my property and divide the proceeds?

Using the WillMaker will, you can leave your property to whomever you choose, but you cannot use your will to leave specific instructions for your executor about how and when to sell or your property.

Instead, use the Letter to Survivor to leave these instructions. Here's an example:

Nancy wants to leave her house to her grown children. But because they already have their own houses, she knows they will not want to live in the house -- rather, they will sell it after she dies and split the proceeds. Using WillMaker, she leaves her house (and everything else) to be divided equally among her three kids. Then she writes a Letter to Survivors, explaining that she wants her executor to sell the house and divide the proceeds among her kids. In the letter, she can leave other details or suggestions. For example, she might suggest that if the market is bad, they could wait to sell the house until they could get a good price for the house.

This will work for any instructions for your executor, but be careful not to contradict any provisions of your will. For example, don't use your will to give your sister your car, and then write in the letter that you want her to give the car to your nephew.

Also, this plan -- of describing the gifts in the will, but then leaving explanations and instructions in a letter -- works best when there are no conflicts or rifts among the beneficiaries. If you anticipate that any of your friends or loved ones will have problems with how you're leaving your property, see a lawyer for help drafting a will that can address these concerns.

Learn more about Writing a Letter to Your Survivors.

I own property in another country. Can I use my WillMaker will to pass that property on to my children?

No, don't use the WillMaker will to pass on property you own in another country. Instead, have an attorney help you with your estate plan. The laws of the other country may affect how the property passes to beneficiaries and it may also affect your estate's willmakertaxes.

Choose a lawyer who has experience dealing with foreign property because they will need to understand or learn the other country's laws, as well as any international laws that might apply. If necessary, your lawyer can work with an attorney in that country to ensure that local rules are understood.

To be clear, you can use WillMaker to name beneficiaries for property you own in any U.S. state, but if you own property in another country (or in any of the U.S. territories), you need help from an attorney.

How do I get more information about making my will?

You can get more information about wills in WillMaker's Legal Manual, or in the Wills section of Nolo.com.

If you have a WillMaker question that the WillMaker Support page does not answer, contact Nolo's customer support team at 800-728-3555 or [email protected].

Keep in mind that Nolo's Customer Support representatives can answer questions about using WillMaker, but they can't answer legal questions.