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.

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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.

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Can a Power of Attorney Sign a Will?

References

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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.

Self-Proving Will Statutes in New York

Writing a valid will ensures that your property is divided according to your wishes. If you fail to make a will, or if you do not sign it properly, the state authorities will make those decisions on your behalf. To be legally valid, a will should be signed and witnessed in accordance with state laws. A self-proving will contains a certification that the will has been properly executed and makes the probate procedure more straightforward. Article 3 of the New York Code sets out the laws relating to signing wills in the state.

How Many Different Types of Legal Wills Exist?

A will leaves instructions for handling someone's estate when she dies. However, the way these instructions are left can vary, meaning that many different types of wills exist.Some types of wills can be used by anyone, others are restricted to very specific situations and are not valid outside these situations while some are recognized in certain states but not others. According to the American Bar Association, there are approximately five different types of legal wills.

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