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Do you want to talk to a lawyer about your estate planning needs?

You may have a unique situation or have specific questions about what is right for you and your family. In these cases, it may be best to talk to an attorney.
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Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
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  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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Do you have children from a previous relationship or a child with special needs?

There are special considerations to make if you have a blended family or a child with special needs. In these cases, it may be best to talk to an attorney.
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a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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Do you have a large estate or an interest in more advanced estate planning tools like trusts?

If your estate equals or exceeds a value of $1 million, or needs special estate planning tools like trusts, it may be best to talk with an attorney.
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Your answers suggest you might benefit from:

Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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Are you looking to have your estate planning basics covered?

Our Estate Planning Package includes a Last Will & Testament, Health Care Directive & Living Will, and Financial Power of Attorney to cover all of your basic estate planning needs.
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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you have minor children?

If you have minor children, you will want to name a guardian for them.
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Do you have pets?

If you have a pet or pets, you will want to name someone to care for them.
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Do you want to leave gifts to people or a charity?

If you want to give items or money to people or charities, you will want to make what are known as “specific gifts.”
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Do you own a business?

If you own a business or a share of a business, you will want to plan for succession of ownership.
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Do you want to decide how your property is distributed when you pass away?

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Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
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Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Thank you for taking our quiz!
Your answers suggest you might benefit from:

Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Estate Planning Package

For One Person

$135
What’s included:
  • Last will and testament
  • Health care directive & living will
  • Financial power of attorney
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • A comprehensive plan — for less
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
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All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For One Person

$79
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Estate Planning Package

For Two People

$255
What’s included:
  • Two wills, health care directives & living wills, and financial powers of attorney
  • Two free HIPAA release forms
  • You and your loved one create your own estate plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Attorney-approved documents customized to your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For Two People

$149
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$156
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Will?

Wills are a part of an estate plan that helps your money, possessions, and property pass legally to your loved ones. But do you need an attorney, or can you create your own will?

Table of Contents

Wills Cover Many Areas of Law

The process of creating will involves many areas of law, including:

And your state has specific requirements for making a will valid in that state.

Can I Draft My Own Will?

Yes. You can create your own will if you follow your state laws. In fact, with online estate planning services, there are state-specific do-it-yourself options you can use to create your legal documents.

If you have a good grasp of the above concepts, then you might want to create your own will. You should also have strong knowledge of your accounts and assets, so you don’t miss anything in your will.

What Makes a Will Legal?

Your state has specific requirements for valid will in your state. For example, most states have the following requirements:

  • You must be an adult. Some states have a minimum age requirement. However, state may have exceptions if the testator is in military service or married.
  • You must have a sound mind. You must have testamentary capacity meaning you know you are making a will, you know what assets you have, and you know your natural beneficiaries, meaning your blood relations.
  • The will must be in writing.
  • The will must be signed and dated.
  • The testator may need witnesses. In most states, you also need two witnesses to watch you sign your will. Witnesses do not need to read your will but be in your presence when you sign it. The witnesses should be “disinterested,” meaning they cannot inherit or benefit from your will. However, some states make exceptions to this rule.

Note: Holographic wills (handwritten wills) do not need a witness. However, not all states recognize holographic wills as valid.

Do I Need a Notary for Will Signing?

Not necessarily. You do not need a notary for your will. Many states allow a person to sign their will before two witnesses instead of having it notarized.

However, most people who write their own will want to include a “self-proving affidavit.” In this affidavit, the witnesses swear before a notary that they were in your presence when you signed the document and you intended to sign the document as your will. This document needs a notary’s signature. The benefit of the self-proving affidavit is that a probate court accepts your will as valid without requiring the witnesses to appear and testify to the validity. It speeds up the probate process.

What Information Do I Need To Make a Will?

A will can be simple or extremely complicated and detailed. There is basic information you need to start your will, such as:

  • A list of your beneficiaries
  • A list of what assets, real estate, and personal property you have (for example, cars, boats, houses, jewelry, artwork, furniture)
  • Who will handle your estate (the personal representative or executor)
  • Who will serve as your minor children’s guardian, if necessary

Other assets or property that do not go into the will include:

  • Bank accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Life insurance proceeds

Those assets pass outside of the will and go to named beneficiaries. It is always a good idea to double-check your beneficiary designations and make sure you have named a backup beneficiary if your first choice has died before you. Any assets lacking a beneficiary designation become part of your probate estate.

You can also get planning information and legal document inventory worksheets in DIY form packages.

When To Use a Lawyer For a Will

Anyone with complex estates or significant assets may want to use an estate planning lawyer. On average, an attorney will take 1-10 hours to create a will at their hourly rate. Many others charge a flat fee. However, having a law firm handle the process for you is often worth the money and the time saved if you have a large estate.

You may especially want to use a lawyer if you:

  • You think someone will contest your estate in probate court
  • You want to make provisions for minor children, stepchildren, special needs children, or blended families
  • You are financially supporting other family members
  • You need appraisals and records of complex assets (for example, a business venture)
  • You have large sums of money or multiple bank accounts
  • You want to create a living trust or a revocable trust
  • You want to reduce your estate for Medicaid planning or to save on estate taxes

If you have questions or your estate is more complicated, seek legal advice from an estate planning attorney.

Can I Make a Living Will for Medical and End-Of-Life Care?

Yes. A living will is a document that informs doctors of the kind of medical care you want if you are unconscious or unable to explain your choices. It is different estate planning document than a last will and testament because it protects you during your life. You may create a living will detailing what medical procedures to provide or withhold and also name a health care agent in a health care directive or a health care power of attorney.

Some states have a statutory living will or advance medical directives. And you can DIY a living will if you know who you want to make your medical decisions and what medical procedures you want or don’t want if you have a terminal or end-state illness.

Is a DIY Will Right For You?

The choice is up you. Online wills save time and money for simple wills as long as you meet the legal requirements of creating a valid will. Writing a will attorney using FindLaw’s state-specific do-it-yourself forms and templates can help make the process easier.

Estate planning solutions to fit your needs.

Written by:

Mathew Courtney, Esq.

Contributing Author

Reviewed by:

Catherine Hodder, Esq.

Legal Writer