Are you old or young? Wealthy or poor? Do you know what? It doesn’t matter! Everyone, no matter what their age or financial status, needs a will. And yet despite this fact, more than half of Americans don’t have a will at all. If you’re one of those people who have neglected to create a will, take a little time out of your schedule to build this important document. The formation of a basic will is quite simple, though you can, of course, make the details more complicated if you like. The big question is: do you need an attorney to make a will, or can you complete the process on your own? Let’s find out . . .
Do You Need an Attorney to Make a Will?
No, you don’t need an attorney to create a will. However, it’s still important to note that (1) wills have specific technical requirements and (2) attorneys are important assets in the creation of many wills. For a will to be valid, it must fulfill a few basic rules:
- THERE MUST BE WITNESSES. At least two witnesses must sign the will. In most states, your witnesses can be whoever you like, but they must not stand to inherit from the will. Finally, although they don’t need to read the will, your witnesses absolutely must watch you sign it. Speaking of which . . .
- YOU MUST SIGN THE DOCUMENT. You must sign the will. As with most important documents and purchases in life, your John Hancock is required. Your signature should be NOTARIZED.
- YOU MUST DATE THE DOCUMENT. A date is also necessary. It’s a simple detail, but still very important.
That’s all there is to it: witnesses, a signature, and a date. If you want to speed up the court procedures after your death (which will prove the validity of your will), you and your witnesses can sign a self-proving affidavit. The will doesn’t need to include legal jargon, and fancy language is optional. The document doesn’t have to be filed or recorded by a government agency. However, to protect it, be sure to keep your will in a safe place and let the executor (the person who will take care of your affairs after your death, also known as the “Personal Representative”) know where it is.
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So yes, you can create a will on your own. However, there are many benefits to having an attorney in this situation:
- If you have any questions about the will-making process or about estate planning in general, the attorney will be there to help.
- If you’re feeling uncertain, the attorney will provide helpful advice and estate planning strategies based on their years of legal experience.
- If your estate or personal life is complicated (numerous assets, issues with taxes, you’ve divorced and remarried), an attorney can help you navigate these complications and create the perfect will.
- If you’re lazy when it comes to legal matters, the attorney will contact you periodically so that you can look over the document and make any needed changes.
So while an attorney isn’t required, they can be a very useful asset.
Do you have a will? If not, what are you waiting for? There’s no time to lose and, as we’ve just explained, it’s usually a very simple process. If you need help creating, reviewing, or updating your will and you live in southwest Missouri, contact the attorneys at Parks & Jones. We would be happy to help you build or update your estate plan. Give us a call at 417-823-9898 or click here to schedule a free consultation.