Do You Need a Lawyer to Make a Will?

You can make a will without a lawyer, but there are things you'll need to know if you're going to DIY your will.
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You are not required to hire a lawyer to make a will. State laws vary, but typically a person can write their own will if they’re at least 18 years old and of sound mind. The will must detail who gets what, and at least two witnesses should sign it.

What are the most important things to put in a will?

It’s perfectly legal to make a will without a lawyer, but doing it yourself comes with some risks

American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. Can I Do a Will for Myself?. Accessed May 3, 2023.
.

Laws vary from state to state, but your will typically must meet these basic requirements to be valid

American Bar Association. Wills and Estates. Accessed May 3, 2023.
:

  • You must be at least 18 years old.

  • You must be of sound mind.

  • The will must detail your final intent regarding what property you’re passing on and who should receive it.

  • The will must be signed by at least two witnesses. Although some states allow a witness to be one of your beneficiaries, it’s usually wise to choose disinterested parties as witnesses. Handwritten wills typically don’t need any witnesses

    Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. Holographic Will. Accessed May 3, 2023.
    .

How to make a will without a lawyer

You’ve got two main options if you’d like to make a will without hiring a lawyer:

  • Online will makers. These products provide kits and templates for various wills, trusts, powers of attorney, advance directives and other estate planning tools. Some provide access to live attorneys. Online will makers typically only offer options for simple wills and probably aren’t a good choice for large or complex estates.

  • Write it yourself. A handwritten will is known as a holographic will. It’s typically the least expensive option. This type of will isn’t legal in all states, however. If a holographic will is an option in your state, be sure your will meets all your state’s requirements, or it may not hold up in probate court after you die. For this reason, holographic wills aren’t generally recommended.

How much does it cost to make a will?

A do-it-yourself will can cost you nothing if you hand write it. A DIY will through an online service typically costs from $0 to a few hundred dollars.

Online Will Maker

Best for

Cost

Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker (Read our Quicken WillMaker review)

Users who want an all-inclusive experience.

  • $99 per year for Starter plan.

  • $139 per year for Plus plan.

  • $209 per year for All Access plan.

GoodTrust

Digital assets.

  • $149 for estate plan bundle or trust plan bundle.

  • $39 per year after that.

  • Bundles include a will, living trust, advance directives and funeral and pet directives.

Trust & Will (Read our Trust & Will review)

Ease of use.

  • One-time fee of $159 per individual or $259 for couples.

  • $19 annual membership fee thereafter.

Rocket Lawyer (Read our Rocket Lawyer Online Will review)

Customer service.

  • Free will template.

  • $39.99 monthly for changes and legal support.

LegalZoom (Read our LegalZoom review)

State-specific legal advice.

  • $119 for Basic will plan.

  • $299 for Premium will plan.

  • $499 for Basic trust plan.

  • $599 for Premium trust plan.

Do Your Own Will (Read our Do Your Own Will review)

Free will software.

$0.

Fabric by Gerber Life (Read our Fabric by Gerber Life review)

Young families.

$0.

Hiring an estate planning attorney to draft your will might run a few hundred dollars or even more than $1,000. Your cost depends on, among other things, your estate’s complexity. You might also consider having your assets appraised.

8 common mistakes in DIY wills

Taking a DIY approach can be effective for simple wills, but some common mistakes could delay probate, invalidate your will or render it ineffective at having your wishes carried out accurately.

  1. Forgetting to sign or properly witness your will. An invalid will could result in a probate court distributing your assets to the wrong people.

  2. Failing to remove standard template language that doesn’t apply to you. This can create contradictions or ambiguity in your will.

  3. Including assets you don’t own or have already assigned to someone else (such as an insurance policy). This can lead to ambiguity about what you wanted your beneficiaries to receive.

  4. Failing to name an executor. This can lead to delays in the probate process, family disputes and additional expense.

  5. Naming an executor who isn’t suited to the task. Avoid executors who do not have your beneficiaries’ best interests at heart.

  6. Not understanding the tax implications of your will. This could prove expensive for your beneficiaries.

  7. Not understanding how to protect your beneficiaries properly from creditors. Creditors may seize newly inherited money or assets from beneficiaries with debt problems.

  8. Failing to review and update your will when situations change. Forgetting to update your will to include a new grandchild or exclude an adult child's now ex-spouse, for example, could create confusion and strain relationships.

Advertisement
Trust & Will - Will

GoodTrust

LegalZoom - Last Will

Price (one-time)

Will: one-time fee of $199 per individual or $299 for couples. Trust: one-time fee of $499 per individual or $599 for couples.

Price (one-time)

$149 for estate plan bundle. Promotion: NerdWallet users can save up to $10.

Price (one-time)

Will: $199 for Basic, $299 for Premium with attorney assist. Trust: $499 for Basic, $599 for Premium with attorney assist.

Price (annual)

$19 annual membership fee.

Price (annual)

$39

Price (annual)

$199 per year for attorney assistance after the first year.

Access to attorney support

Yes

Access to attorney support

No

Access to attorney support

Yes

When does it make sense to hire a lawyer to make your will?

You may want to hire an estate planning attorney to create your will if:

  • You want to exclude people to whom your assets would otherwise pass by default.

  • You’re concerned someone might contest your will.

  • Your estate is large enough to subject your beneficiaries to estate tax.

  • You have complex plans for distributing your assets. For example, you want to leave your home in trust for the remainder of a significant other's life and then have it pass to your children.

  • You’d like to divide your assets among multiple people across multiple generations.

  • You need to arrange long-term care for a beneficiary with functional needs.

  • You own a business and are unsure about your ownership share and the rights of surviving owners.

  • You’d like to create a comprehensive estate-planning package that also includes documents such as a power of attorney, trust and living will.

  • You want to be sure your will holds up in probate court.

Compare online will makers

Company
NerdWallet
rating
Price
(one-time)
Price
(annual)
Access to
attorney support
Learn more
Ease of use
Trust & Will - Will
Trust & Will - Will
Get started

on Trust & Will's website

Will: one-time fee of $199 per individual or $299 for couples. Trust: one-time fee of $499 per individual or $599 for couples. $19 annual membership fee.Yes
Get started

on Trust & Will's website

Digital Assets
GoodTrust
GoodTrust
Get started

on GoodTrust's website

$149 for estate plan bundle. Promotion: NerdWallet users can save up to $10.$39No
Get started

on GoodTrust's website

Comprehensive services
Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker - WillMaker
Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker - WillMaker
Get started

on Nolo's website

None$99 to $209 per year.No
Get started

on Nolo's website

State-specific legal advice
LegalZoom - Last Will
LegalZoom - Last Will
Get started

on LegalZoom's website

Will: $199 for Basic, $299 for Premium with attorney assist. Trust: $499 for Basic, $599 for Premium with attorney assist.$199 per year for attorney assistance after the first year.Yes
Get started

on LegalZoom's website

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