If you've decided to make a will, but you’re not sure how to go about creating it, you have two options: you can either hire a lawyer to help you, or you can do it yourself. Both situations have distinct advantages; however, the right option for you depends on your specific circumstances.
Advantages of Writing Your Own Will
The primary benefit of drafting a will yourself is cost. Lawyers generally charge between a few hundred to several thousand dollars to draft a will. However, the price of do-it-yourself online will programs ranges from $20 to $200 or more, while writing the entire will yourself costs you nothing. If your assets and bequests are simple and straightforward, and you are careful to comply with state law, writing a will without a lawyer should generally not pose a problem.
Advantages of Hiring a Lawyer
Having a lawyer draft your will can buy you peace of mind. A lawyer can ensure that the will complies with state law, provides the best tax advantages for your estate and heirs, and accounts for particulars in your specific circumstances. In short, you may feel more assured that the document will stand up in court even if contested, and that your wishes will be carried out as desired.
If you chose to write a will without a lawyer, be sure to carefully research applicable state laws, particularly with respect to spousal inheritance laws, the signing of the will and any requirements relating to witness. In addition, write your wishes as clearly as possible because ambiguity in a will can render it invalid. If you use an online program to draft your will, read all instructions carefully and follow them to the letter. Some programs offer to have a lawyer review your documents for extra cost, an option that may give you additional peace of mind while saving you money.
When to Hire a Lawyer
In some circumstances, hiring a lawyer to draft your will is the least risky option. You should probably hire a lawyer if you have assets in multiple countries or states, have minor children, have been remarried, are in a same-sex relationship, own a small business, possess assets over $2 million or believe your will might be contested. A lawyer may also be a good idea if you do not understand the online forms or believe that the forms do not meet your particular needs.
Barbara Diggs is a freelance writer living in France. A former corporate lawyer, she has been writing professionally since 2006. She has been published in numerous print and online magazines, specializing in travel, parenting, history and law. Diggs is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Stanford Law School.