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.

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.

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.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

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. Start My Estate Plan
How to Execute Wills
 

References

Resources

Related articles

A Basic Last Will & Testament

A last will and testament is a legal document that describes how you want to allocate your assets, property and belongings after your death. While the laws regarding last wills and testaments vary from state to state, reading up and following the laws of your state will ensure the validity of the documents. In general though, there are some basic requirements that govern the drafting of all last wills and testaments.

California Laws Regarding Wills

California law requires that a testator, or the person making a will, be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind. The statutes regarding mental competency to make a will are more extensive than those in most states. Under California Probate Code Section 6100, the testator must remember and understand his relationship with his beneficiaries and his bequests to him. He cannot suffer from any mental disorder resulting in delusions or hallucinations if his will contains unexpected bequests, and there are other criteria, as well.

Is Amending Your Will Yourself Legal in Iowa?

A will or testament is a legal document that disposes of property upon a person's death and designates a guardian for the decedent's minor children, if any. When a person creates a will in Iowa, he must follow the state's prescribed legal procedures for drafting a will so it is valid and will be implemented upon death. The same legal procedures must also be strictly followed to amend a will.

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

Related articles

Can a Power of Attorney Sign a Will?

A power of attorney grants one person the legal authority to act on behalf of another for certain purposes, which are ...

Rules About Wills

Your will explains to those you leave behind how you want them to deal with your property when you die. It also allows ...

The Requirements for Last Wills Accepted in All 50 States

Laws regarding last wills vary slightly among all states, but in general, a will must meet certain requirements to be ...

What Constitutes a Legal Will?

A will is a testator's final directive about her property. A valid will effectively disposes of all of the testator's ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED