Do I Need a Lawyer for a Will?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Will?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Anyone can draft their own will without hiring an attorney as long as they follow the specific laws of their state. Each state has its own unique requirements for what it considers a valid testament, so it is important to understand what you need to do to create one. Although anyone can create this document on their own, if you have a particularly complex estate or instructions that involve minor children, you may want to consider hiring someone to assist you.

Person handing another person a document labeled "Last Will and Testament"

A last will and testament is a useful estate planning tool that allows you to plan how and to whom your assets are transferred to after your death. This legal document is one way you can ensure your loved ones are financially secure after you die. It may seem like a daunting task, but creating a final testament is fairly straightforward. Whether you hire someone or create a will yourself should depend on your specific circumstances. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages.

General Requirements for a Valid Will

As stated above, each state has its own unique requirements for what it considers a valid will. However, there are some typical requirements that most states have in common. For example, most states require a person to be at least 18 years old and of sound mind to create a testament. If you are of sound mind, you know what you are doing and you have not been deemed incompetent in a prior legal proceeding.

The majority of states also require at least two witnesses to be present when the person creating the will, known as the testator, signs it. The witnesses themselves usually must also sign the document. Many states accept handwritten testaments, but they may have additional requirements. Few states accept oral wills, so writing down your wishes is an important step.

Advantages of Hiring an Attorney vs. Creating Your Own Will

If you have a particularly large or complex estate with many assets, it may be a good idea to hire an attorney to ensure that your testament complies with state law. If a court finds that the document is partially or wholly invalid, it can have devastating consequences, and your assets may not transfer to the people you chose. Hiring someone, and therefore having a valid testament, can provide peace of mind.

Hiring someone does cost money. One of the primary benefits of creating your own will is that you can save money you would have spent on an attorney. Nowadays, many online services provide templates and charge only a nominal fee to use them. If you have a fairly simple estate, you can obtain a template and fill it in with your assets and bequests.

Even if you use a template, you must still follow state law. You can find most states' relevant laws by searching the state website. Once you find the relevant section, the requirements for a valid will are generally very straightforward.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.