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FreeWill Co is a company whose website,, has online software which helps people write wills for free and make charitable contributions, and it reports each person's planned bequests to charities which pay subscription fees.[1] It also helps people write advance healthcare directives[2] and living trusts in California.[3]


FreeWill is a Public Benefit Corporation founded at Stanford University in 2017 by Jennifer Xia Spradling and Patrick Schmitt. It has two social missions: The first is to create access to estate planning for all individuals regardless of their backgrounds or ability to pay. The second is to make it easy for people to leave money to charity. As a Public Benefit Corporation, they are legally obligated to pursue their social missions in addition to seeking financial return.[4]

The idea for FreeWill stemmed from cofounder Patrick Schmitt’s time working on fundraising campaigns for the Democratic National Committee where he learned how remove friction points in the donation process and increase individual donations. When it came time for Schmitt to do his own estate planning, he wondered why nobody had made it similarly easy to build charitable donations into your will.[5]

FreeWill's founders were featured in Town & Country's Top Philanthropists in 2019.[6]

Business model[edit]

Hundreds of charities pay a few thousand dollars to $50,000 per year in order to have the charity's name included in the software, and receive reports of the name, address, assets, and planned bequest for each donor who agrees.[7] Donors are not required to leave money to charity.[8] For donors who do not release information to the charity, FreeWill can still send the charity aggregate data, and they do not say how much detail these aggregates have.[9] Unlike most estate planning, the software asks users specifically if they want to give to charities,[10] and automatically looks up an accurate EIN and address of subscribing charities, which users would otherwise find on their own.[11]

The company's products include wills, durable financial power of attorney, qualified charitable distributions, stock donations.[12][13] and living wills (also known as advance healthcare directives or healthcare power of attorney).[2] Most estate lawyers would prepare a living trust to keep the estate private and out of probate.[12] FreeWill offers a living trust only in California.[3]

After entering all will information, users have options to download the will; or get more information; or see a lawyer, in which case the site offers the American Bar Association directory of all lawyers. Users with over $10 million in assets and users in California also see a suggestion that they see a lawyer. If users ask for more information the site makes no recommendations, but notes that some people prefer to use a lawyer if they are getting divorced, or have out-of-state property, a business, a dependent with a disability, someone who may contest the will, children from multiple marriages, a premarital agreement, a caregiver as beneficiary, or assets over the estate tax exemption.[14] They do not give reasons why any of these calls for a lawyer, but others say that having a lawyer involved is good protection against anyone questioning whether the decedent was mentally qualified.[15] Others say that having any house, not just one out of state, calls for a lawyer.[16]


As of March 2020, 50,000 people have prepared wills on the platform, 19% have included bequests to charities, and bequests average $111,000. The planned bequests total $1 billion. The largest numbers of donations[5] have been for the American Red Cross,[17] United Way,[18] Defenders of Wildlife[19] and Disabled American Veterans.[20][5] The average user is 57 years old.[21] FreeWill expects to expand to Canada, Western Europe, Australia, Japan and China.[10]


While lawyers are involved in writing the software, FreeWill is not a law firm and does not have an attorney-client relationship with customers. Privacy statements let the company store information on assets, children bequests, medical and religious preferences and use them to target ads and fundraising appeals.[9] FreeWill explicitly advises charities to use information they receive from the software to build relationships with potential donors and raise more money.[22] For these purposes, FreeWill collects total assets, age and address, as well as information used in writing the will and living will.[9] They track visits and actions elsewhere on the web over time, and ignore Do Not Track requests. FreeWill will transfer their information to any larger company which acquires them. They can amend the privacy statement by posting a notice on the site.[9]

FreeWill says it uses modern security protocols.[23] They acknowledge that information can escape in security breaches, for which they do not accept liability.[9]


FreeWill is free to users. Its competitors include other online services, some free, some offering trusts and other services.[24] One competitor offers downloadable software so the software company does not see users' wills and trusts,[25] [26] [27] which is available from libraries,[28] This downloadable competitor is linked from some nonprofits' websites, as FreeWill is.[29]

Competitors also include lawyers, with flat fees of $1,200-$2,000,[30] and there are lawyer rating systems such as Martindale-Hubbell. Members and dependents of the US military have access to lawyers at Judge Advocate offices.[31] Consumer Reports notes that people resist hiring a lawyer for a will, even though they hire professionals for hairdressing, mowing and tax preparation.[30] Lawyers have boilerplate wording, which they adjust for almost every client.[32] The lawyer's work is confidential, under Attorney–client privilege, and liability is covered by errors and omissions insurance in case of problems.[33]

In Britain, competition includes free wills from solicitors and from the online firm, Bequeathed.[34]

Lawyers have said that a will and trust created by software are better and faster than none, though not as good as a custom product and counsel from a lawyer.[27][35]

Dispute resolution[edit]

FreeWill, like other companies which produce will-writing software,[33] disclaims liability for errors and omissions in their software; they also note that laws change rapidly.[36] If people nevertheless have disputes with the company, the users and company agree to use small claims courts or individual arbitration in New York City under "Commercial Arbitration Rules that contemplate in-person hearings."[36] The company's offices are in New York City,[37] and it is incorporated in Delaware.[38]


  1. ^ Sullivan, Paul (2018-09-07). "Making Wills Easier and Cheaper With Do-It-Yourself Options". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  2. ^ a b "What is an Advance Healthcare Directive (AHCD)?". FreeWill. Retrieved 2020-08-21.
  3. ^ a b "Write Your Legal Will Online, Free & Simple". FreeWill. Retrieved 2020-08-11.
  4. ^ "Write Your Legal Will Online, Free & Simple". FreeWill. Retrieved 2020-08-11.
  5. ^ a b c Wilson, Alexandra. "The Will To Give: This End-Of-Life Platform Is Facilitating $1.1 Billion In Charitable Donations". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  6. ^ Editors, The (2019-05-22). "Meet the T&C 50: The Top Philanthropists of 2019". Town & Country. Retrieved 2020-08-11.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Guzman, Zack (2018-10-16). "This startup lets you write a will for free by donating to charity". Yahoo Finance. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  8. ^ "Write Your Legal Will Online, Free & Simple". FreeWill. Retrieved 2020-08-11.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Privacy Statement". FreeWill. 2020-04-13. Retrieved 2020-04-21. "interest-based advertising;... organizations and their planned giving consultants to facilitate and report donations"
  10. ^ a b Schmitt, Patrick, and Denver Frederick (2019-08-09). "How an Estate-Planning Tool Can Help Fundraisers Win Bequests (Podcast)". Chronicle of Philanthropy.
  11. ^ Schwencke,, ken, Mike Tigas, Sisi Wei, Brandon Roberts, Alec Glassford (2020-04-14). "Nonprofit Explorer". ProPublica. Retrieved 2020-04-21.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  12. ^ a b Sullivan, Paul (2018-09-07). "Making Wills Easier and Cheaper With Do-It-Yourself Options". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  13. ^ "Your Money: The one document Americans need now - Power of attorney". Reuters. 2020-03-27. Retrieved 2020-08-11.
  14. ^ "That's okay! Here's some helpful information". FreeWill. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  15. ^ "The Dangers of Do It Yourself Wills & Trusts". Cassady Law Offices, P.C. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  16. ^ Connick, Wendy (2017-06-24). "Should You Write Your Own Will?". The Motley Fool. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  17. ^ "Getting Started". Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  18. ^ "United Way of Western Connecticut". Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  19. ^ "Gifts from Your Will or Trust". Defenders of Wildlife. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  20. ^ "Give beyond Your Years" (PDF). DAV Magazine. March 2020. p. 37. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  21. ^ Pinsker, Beth (2020-03-27). "Your Money: The one document Americans need now - Power of attorney". Reuters. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  22. ^ "2020 REPORT ON Qualified Charitable Distributions from IRAs" (PDF). 2020-02-24. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  23. ^ "Write Your Legal Will Online, Free & Simple". FreeWill. Retrieved 2020-08-11.
  24. ^ Hartman, Rachel (2019-11-06). "The Best Online Will Making Programs". US News & World Report. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  25. ^ Ewoldt, John (2016-05-11). "Prince's estate highlights the value of creating a will". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Archived from the original on 2016-05-11. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  26. ^ Hayes, Abby; 2019 (2019-12-01). "Quicken WillMaker Plus 2016 Review". Doughroller (in Welsh). Retrieved 2020-04-21.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ a b Carrns, Ann (2017-02-08). "Why You Should Get Around to Drawing Up a Will". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  28. ^ Hannibal, Betsy Simmons (2019). "Quicken WillMaker & Trust 2020: book & software kit". WorldCat. OCLC 1119627018. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  29. ^ Asinof, Lynn (2019-04-09). "Write a Will Online that is Quick, Cheap and Legal". AARP. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  30. ^ a b "Steps to Create an Estate Plan - Consumer Reports". Consumer Reports. November 2013. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  31. ^ Weinberger, Dawn (2019-03-07). "Estate Planning 101: The Difference Between A Will And A Trust". Hanscom Air Force Base Federal Credit Union. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  32. ^ Hill, Catey (2015-11-27). "Don't buy legal documents online without reading this story". Market Watch. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  33. ^ a b Rothe, Wayne (2020-01-06). "Is a free (or cheap) do-it-yourself will kit safe?". Retire Happy. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  34. ^ "Free will offer". British Red Cross. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  35. ^ Zuckerman, Michael (2014-05-30). "Is There Such a Thing as an Affordable Lawyer?". Atlantic.
  36. ^ a b "Terms of Service". FreeWill. 2019-09-19. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  37. ^ "FreeWill, Raising a million dollars a day for charity". Retrieved 2020-05-14.
  38. ^ "Freewill Co. · 300 W 57th Street 40th Floor, New York, New York 10019". Retrieved 2020-05-14.