Do I Need an Attorney to Make a Legal Will?

By A.L. Kennedy

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 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.

Testator

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.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now

Format

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.

Contents

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.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now
Are Notarized Wills Legal?

References

Resources

Related articles

Concerns for Making a Will

Two things concern most people who are making wills: that their will can carry out their wishes, and that they minimize the risk of a will contest, according to FindLaw. You can help decrease the chances that your will may be found invalid after you die by planning ahead. Consider sharing your concerns for making a will with an attorney, especially if you have minor children or substantial investments, advises FindLaw.

Is a Self Made Will Legal if Notarized?

A self-made will is legal if it meets your state's requirements for wills. All states have requirements that include having at least two witnesses and signing your will yourself. Some states allow you to notarize your will to make it "self-proving," which moves it through probate faster. However, as of December 2010, only Louisiana requires a will to be notarized.

The Making & Revocation of Wills

All 50 states recognize written wills that meet each state's specific requirements for a valid will, according to FindLaw. States also have various legal methods of revoking wills. Whether you are making a will or revoking one, you may wish to consult an attorney who practices estate law in your state to make sure your will meets your state's requirements.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Do You Need a Lawyer to Make a Will Legal?

Most U.S. states have a handful of specific items that must be included for a will to be valid. These include items ...

What Does a Legal Will Look Like?

A legal will is a will that meets the requirements in state law for the will to be recognized by that state. Each U.S. ...

Pennsylvania's Statute of Wills

Pennsylvania's statute governing wills is called the Probate Code. Like all states, Pennsylvania has its own laws that ...

Wills in Ireland

Irish law concerning wills is governed by the Succession Act of 1965. This law is equally applied in all parts of the ...

Browse by category