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Undoubtedly, writing a will is dreaded by most people because they feel that doing so means dwelling on their eventual demise. However, it is important to remember that creating a will is a caring act for your loved ones, ensuring they know your wishes and that your assets are distributed in the way you want.

In most cases, no, you do not need a lawyer to make a will. Many people believe that making a will is a complex task that requires an attorney to assist. But, if you are like most people with a simple estate plan, you can successfully draft your own will without legal help.

In fact, making a last will has been simplified by the many available DIY last will and testament templates online. This can be a good way to start your document and then adapt it to your needs with help from a lawyer.

Start your Last Will and Testament now

What Does a Basic Last Will Contain?

A basic last will is easy to write if you do not have a huge estate or numerous assets. This document still succeeds in helping you control the distribution of your estate, thus protecting your loved ones from the exhausting legal process. Further, a simple will leaves clear instructions to the beneficiaries and the executor on how your finances and property will be distributed.

It accelerates the probate process, makes your final wishes a reality, and reduces the confusion that may result if you die without a will. Since this is the outcome you want, let's discuss what to include in a will to ensure it is acceptable to the courts.

What to Include in a Will

So far, we've seen that making a last will is not a complicated legal process. You may be encouraged to know that lawyers usually have a standard format to draft their clients' last will, containing similar clauses as the DIY one. When a client comes, they request their assistant to fill in the blank spaces as you would do on your own.

Here are some examples of information that will be necessary to complete this document:

  • Personal data of the testator: This is the section you fill in your details as the one writing the Will.
  • Section for naming beneficiaries: This section includes the individuals and organizations that will receive your possessions.
  • Plan for your funeral: The document outlines how you want your funeral service handled and what to do with your remains.
  • Identify Assets: Specify which possessions goes to which beneficiary.
  • Appoint an Executor: The executor is the person to fulfill your request and the powers they have to carry out the process.
  • State where you reside: This specifies which state governs your will.
  • Witness signature: A last will needs two disinterested witnesses to sign sworn statements to make it valid.

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Pros and Cons of a DIY Last Will

As you ponder on making your last will, it would be unwise if you do not consider the pros and cons of a DIY last will and testament. To paint a holistic picture, the table below outlines four pros and cons of DIY last will and testament.

Pros Cons
Simple and often free to make online You can draft them incorrectly if you do not use the proper legal language
It takes less time to make due to the many templates available You may fail to meet the requirement of finding the proper witnesses
It is sufficient to meet your wishes in simpler cases Fails to meet the standard if you have a complex estate
Easy and free to update with online templates The DIY last will and Testament variation online can confuse you

Regardless of the cons, a DIY will is still an excellent way to start your document before seeing a lawyer.

When Should You Consult a Lawyer?

Sometimes, a lawyer may be better placed to address concerns that the DIY last will and Testament templates you encountered have not been properly tackled. Other situations you may need to consult a lawyer are:

  • You need to engage in estate tax planning because of the extensive assets you own.
  • You require a complex plan to get your possessions, not just name someone.
  • You haven't fully understood how to include a small business and ownership share in the last will.
  • You have a feeling someone might contest the last will.
  • You want to disinherit your spouse, which is rarely possible if they object—you need a lawyer to give you options.

Cost of Making a Will With a Lawyer

Although a lawyer is helpful and maybe even necessary in some situations, they are still a much more expensive solution. Now, the concern that comes to mind is how much it will cost. Lawyers use two options to charge their services:

  • Flat fees: The flat fee can range from $300 to $1,000, with some lawyers going as high as $1,200. In this case, the lawyer uses already drafted templates and customizes them to fit your needs.
  • Hourly billing: The hourly rate depends on the lawyer's training and experience and the state where you reside. For example, a small-town lawyer will charge approximately $150/hour, while an attorney in a large city may charge $200/hour. Elsewhere, a law firm that deals with estate planning only will charge more than a general lawyer.

Now, you are fully equipped to decide on the best way to make your last will. In summary, you are not legally required to have a lawyer draft your last will and testament, although some cases require one.

Helpful Resources:

Top 10 Estate Tax Planning Strategies - Estate CPA

Pasadena Law Group

Undoubtedly, writing a will is dreaded by most people because they feel that doing so means dwelling on their eventual demise. However, it is important to remember that creating a will is a caring act for your loved ones, ensuring they know your wishes and that your assets are distributed in the way you want.

In most cases, no, you do not need a lawyer to make a will. Many people believe that making a will is a complex task that requires an attorney to assist. But, if you are like most people with a simple estate plan, you can successfully draft your own will without legal help.

In fact, making a last will has been simplified by the many available DIY last will and testament templates online. This can be a good way to start your document and then adapt it to your needs with help from a lawyer.

Start your Last Will and Testament now

What Does a Basic Last Will Contain?

A basic last will is easy to write if you do not have a huge estate or numerous assets. This document still succeeds in helping you control the distribution of your estate, thus protecting your loved ones from the exhausting legal process. Further, a simple will leaves clear instructions to the beneficiaries and the executor on how your finances and property will be distributed.

It accelerates the probate process, makes your final wishes a reality, and reduces the confusion that may result if you die without a will. Since this is the outcome you want, let's discuss what to include in a will to ensure it is acceptable to the courts.

What to Include in a Will

So far, we've seen that making a last will is not a complicated legal process. You may be encouraged to know that lawyers usually have a standard format to draft their clients' last will, containing similar clauses as the DIY one. When a client comes, they request their assistant to fill in the blank spaces as you would do on your own.

Here are some examples of information that will be necessary to complete this document:

  • Personal data of the testator: This is the section you fill in your details as the one writing the Will.
  • Section for naming beneficiaries: This section includes the individuals and organizations that will receive your possessions.
  • Plan for your funeral: The document outlines how you want your funeral service handled and what to do with your remains.
  • Identify Assets: Specify which possessions goes to which beneficiary.
  • Appoint an Executor: The executor is the person to fulfill your request and the powers they have to carry out the process.
  • State where you reside: This specifies which state governs your will.
  • Witness signature: A last will needs two disinterested witnesses to sign sworn statements to make it valid.

                        </div>
                    </div>

Pros and Cons of a DIY Last Will

As you ponder on making your last will, it would be unwise if you do not consider the pros and cons of a DIY last will and testament. To paint a holistic picture, the table below outlines four pros and cons of DIY last will and testament.

Pros Cons
Simple and often free to make online You can draft them incorrectly if you do not use the proper legal language
It takes less time to make due to the many templates available You may fail to meet the requirement of finding the proper witnesses
It is sufficient to meet your wishes in simpler cases Fails to meet the standard if you have a complex estate
Easy and free to update with online templates The DIY last will and Testament variation online can confuse you

Regardless of the cons, a DIY will is still an excellent way to start your document before seeing a lawyer.

When Should You Consult a Lawyer?

Sometimes, a lawyer may be better placed to address concerns that the DIY last will and Testament templates you encountered have not been properly tackled. Other situations you may need to consult a lawyer are:

  • You need to engage in estate tax planning because of the extensive assets you own.
  • You require a complex plan to get your possessions, not just name someone.
  • You haven't fully understood how to include a small business and ownership share in the last will.
  • You have a feeling someone might contest the last will.
  • You want to disinherit your spouse, which is rarely possible if they object—you need a lawyer to give you options.

Cost of Making a Will With a Lawyer

Although a lawyer is helpful and maybe even necessary in some situations, they are still a much more expensive solution. Now, the concern that comes to mind is how much it will cost. Lawyers use two options to charge their services:

  • Flat fees: The flat fee can range from $300 to $1,000, with some lawyers going as high as $1,200. In this case, the lawyer uses already drafted templates and customizes them to fit your needs.
  • Hourly billing: The hourly rate depends on the lawyer's training and experience and the state where you reside. For example, a small-town lawyer will charge approximately $150/hour, while an attorney in a large city may charge $200/hour. Elsewhere, a law firm that deals with estate planning only will charge more than a general lawyer.

Now, you are fully equipped to decide on the best way to make your last will. In summary, you are not legally required to have a lawyer draft your last will and testament, although some cases require one.

Helpful Resources:

Top 10 Estate Tax Planning Strategies - Estate CPA

Pasadena Law Group