In most states, a legal or valid will must contain certain basic information, such as the testator's or will-maker's name, the date the will was made, the testator's signature and the signatures of two witnesses in some cases. An attorney's help is not required to make a valid will. Nevertheless, it is wise to consider consulting an attorney when you make your will, especially if you have minor children, considerable investments or other assets, or family strife that may affect how your property is distributed after you die.
In most states, a person making a will must be at least 18 years old and be of sound mind, according to MedLaw Plus. Some states, such as Louisiana, allow people 16 years of age or older to make wills or to serve as witnesses to another person's signing of his will, according to MedLaw Plus. A testator who is under the legal age or is mentally incompetent to make a will may not make a valid will.
All states require a valid will to be in writing in almost all circumstances, according to FindLaw. The written will may be typed, although some states also allow handwritten or "holographic" wills, according to MedLaw Plus. A handful of states allow spoken wills, also known as "nuncupative" wills, in specific or unusual circumstances, such as when someone is dying. In almost all cases, a nuncupative will must be written down within a short time period after the dying person speaks it, or it is not valid, according to MedLaw Plus.
In order to be valid, a will must contain certain information. Nearly all states require the same basic information in a valid will, according to FindLaw. This information includes the name of the testator, the date the will was made, a statement that this will is the testator's last will and that it revokes any former wills, a statement appointing an executor, at least one statement giving property to someone and a statement appointing a guardian if the testator has children under the age of 18, according to FindLaw. The will must also contain the signature of the testator and, in most cases, the signatures of at least two witnesses. A handful of states also require a will to be notarized.
Signature and Witnesses
All states require at least two witnesses to a testator's signature of her will, except in unusual circumstances, according to FindLaw. A testator should sign her will while the witnesses watch. Each witness should then write, beneath the testator's signature, a short statement saying that he knows the testator and watched her sign this will. Each witness should then sign and date the will below his statement, according to FindLaw.