A legal will must meet the law's requirements for wills in the state where it is made. Each state has different laws governing wills. As of 2010, no U.S. state requires you to consult an attorney to make your will legal, nor does any state require you to have an attorney write your will for you to make it legal. However, because estate law varies in every state, it is wise to consult an attorney who practices estate law in your state to ensure your will is legal there.
What to Include in Your Will
An attorney who practices estate law in your state can help you decide what to put in your will, as well as tell you what not to put in your will, according to FindLaw. For instance, an attorney may remind you to include the name of your chosen executor or the guardian of your minor children. Likewise, an attorney can tell you what assets, such as joint bank accounts or life insurance policies, are not covered by probate law in your state and therefore do not need to go in your will, according to FindLaw.
How to Write Your Will
Nearly every U.S. state requires a legal will to be in writing. An attorney does not have to write your will for you to make it legal. However, an attorney can help you learn what types of written wills are valid in your state. For instance, some states permit holographic or handwritten wills even if they are not signed by any witnesses, according to MedLawPlus. Of the states that allow holographic wills, some require the entire will to be in your handwriting, while other states require only "material portions" to be in your handwriting. Consulting an attorney before writing your will can help ensure the format you choose to write in is valid. You may also choose to have the attorney write your will for you to ensure it's in the proper format and nothing is omitted, according to FindLaw.
Executing Your Will
Most states require wills to not only be written but also signed by the person to whom the will belongs and at least two witnesses, according to FindLaw. Some states also allow notarized wills to pass through probate court more quickly, although notarization may not be an acceptable substitute for witnesses in your state. An attorney will know the requirements for signatures, witnesses and notarization in your state and can help you choose suitable witnesses, according to FindLaw.
Storing Your Will
Your will should always be stored in a safe place once it is complete. However, some safe places are impossible to get to after your death in some states. For instance, some U.S. states require your safe deposit box to be sealed upon your death, making it difficult for your executor to get to your will and slowing down the probate process, according to FindLaw. An attorney can give you suggestions on the best way to store your will. Also, many attorneys will keep a copy of your will on file, along with a note stating where the original is stored. This information can help your executor find your will much more quickly after you die, according to FindLaw.