Do You Have to Be a Lawyer to Write a Will?

By A.L. Kennedy

You may write your own will in any U.S. state as long as you meet the state's requirements for those who write wills. You do not have to be a lawyer to write a will. However, consulting an attorney before writing your will or having an attorney write your will for you may be helpful, especially if you have a large estate, minor children or any questions about the process.

Basic Requirements

Most U.S. states only have a few basic requirements for a person to write his own valid will. Usually, a testator, or person who makes a will, must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. Being of sound mind usually only means that you understand that you are writing your will and what your will does. Some states allow people younger than 18 to write a will if they are serving in the armed forces when they make their wills.

Provisions for Minor Children

If you have minor children, you may want to provide for them in your will. Although you can include your own minor children when you write your will, an attorney can help you with advice on how best to arrange matters for your own particular children. For instance, an attorney can help you set up a trust or life insurance policy to help pay for your children's future needs if you die. An attorney can also help you decide who should be named as guardian for your children.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Large Estates

If you have a significant amount of assets, it may be difficult for you to remember to include all of them in your will. Also, some assets pass outside of probate and should not be included in your will, as they transfer directly to your beneficiaries on your death. These assets, which include things like life insurance policies and joint bank accounts, are called non-probate assets and should not be listed in your will. Finally, the tax consequences of passing a large estate to your beneficiaries via a will may be onerous. You may wish to consult a lawyer as well as an accountant or other financial professional for advice if you have a large estate and wish to write your own will.

Preventing a Will Contest

For some people, preventing beneficiaries from fighting over the estate after death is an important issue. Your will can help prevent your beneficiaries from filing lawsuits to contest your will by including a no-contest clause. This clause usually states that any beneficiary who challenges the will must give up his entire share of the estate if he loses. In addition, some states have specific rules for whether and how you can leave a child out of your will entirely. An attorney who practices estate law in your state can help you figure out how to write your will so that the beneficiaries you choose get what you leave them with as little fighting as possible.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Draft a Will With a No-Contest Clause



Related articles

DIY for a Will and Testament

If your estate is small or you do not have minor children, you may decide to write your own will and testament. A DIY will and testament can be legal, as long as it meets the requirements for valid wills in your state. Consulting an attorney can help clarify the specific instructions in your state's laws for making a will.

How to Contest a Will in Missouri

Your will leaves instructions for your loved ones regarding how you want your property distributed, and your loved ones might willingly follow your instructions to the letter. Sometimes, however, family and friends may dispute, or contest, terms of your will. Missouri allows certain persons to contest a will even if it appears valid, but you can take steps to discourage will contests.

Advice on Contesting Wills

A will contest or a will challenge is a court case brought to dispute the validity of a will, according to FindLaw. In most cases, a will contest is filed with the probate court, and the executor of the estate is responsible for defending the will's validity. It may be wise to hire an attorney for a will contest. He will know your state's laws regarding will challenges, and may increase your chances of success.

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

Related articles

How to Write a Will for an Unborn Child

You can use a will to accomplish many purposes, including naming guardians for your children, leaving specific bequests ...

How to Make a Will by Yourself

If you do not have children or do not have many assets, you may wish to write your own will. Courts in most states will ...

Questions for Will Preparation

When preparing a will, it's important to ask questions that help you gather the information you need. From deciding ...

Can I Write My Own Last Will & Testament?

At its most basic, a last will and testament is simply a document indicating what you want done with your property, any ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED