Do I Really Need a Lawyer for a Will? 3 Pitfalls to Watch for When Doing it Yourself.

Short answer: no. While you don’t need a lawyer to create your will, there are pitfalls to watch for if you elect to go it alone.

The Validity of Your Will

First, there are some technical requirements to making sure your Will is valid. Witnesses and notarized signatures are required. I’ve had many folks come in to see me to update their Wills only to find out their “affordable” Wills weren’t valid anyway.

Arizona provides six requirements for a valid will:

  1. The writer, or testator, must be at least 18
  2. The testator must have testamentary intent
  3. The testator must possess testamentary capacity
  4. The testator must not be unduly influenced
  5. The testator must sign and date the will
  6. The will must be signed by two witnesses

Ensuring Your Will is Up to Date

Second, making sure what you want to leave is actually there. I see this often with the firm dollar amount being left to someone. Well, at the time the Will was created, they were flush with cash and leaving a chunk of change to a specific person seemed just fine. Then when the time came to actually probate the estate, the family finds out that the neighbor who used to pick up the mail while the parents went on their annual cruise actually gets the bulk of the estate. Oops. Not really what was intended.

Minimizing the Impact of Probate

This brings me to the third reason, probate. It’s not that probate is necessarily bad. There are many attorneys that specialize in probate and make a good living from it. I just think if we can keep more of the money spent on probate in the hands of the family, that’s a good thing. Working with an attorney can open other strategies and ideas to minimize the potential of a future costly probate process.

So, no you do not really need a lawyer to create your Will. It’s certainly cheaper for you to prepare your own Will with an online provider, but you may wind up paying for it later.

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