With advertisements for do-it-yourself solutions such as LegalZoom crowding the airwaves, many people wonder, “Do I need a lawyer for a will?” While perhaps counter to what you might expect on a law firm’s website, the answer is “not necessary.” There are several methods available by which you may draft a will without the assistance of an attorney. They each come with their own risks, however, and should only be considered in the simplest and most straight-forward of circumstances.
LegalZoom may answer the question, “Do I need a lawyer for a will?” in the negative, but long before LegalZoom came along, state legislatures provided their own answers. Many states, including Arkansas, recognize the validity of holographic wills, which are wills written completely in the handwriting of the testator—that is, the person making the will. So long as it is clearly marked as the testator’s last will and testament, the will will likely be recognized as valid. In a future post, I will discuss holographic wills in more detail.
In that same vein, do-it-yourself solutions have become increasingly popular in recent years as an economical way to acquire a will. So long as the right formalities are followed, these types of wills will likely be held valid as well.
“So, do I need a lawyer for a will?”
As discussed above, you do not need an attorney to acquire a will. The alternative methods for acquiring a will, however, come with significant risks. While the will may be considered valid by a probate court, mistakes in drafting the will may result in property distributions you did not intend and failure to provide for the distribution of all of your property may result in a portion of your estate being distributed according to the Arkansas intestate statute.
In addition, a failure to properly follow the required formalities when drafting or executing a will may result in its being held invalid by the courts. This can result in all of your property being distributed according to the Arkansas intestate statute.
Given the risks associated with drafting a will without the assistance of an attorney, I recommend utilizing an attorney to ensure your estate plan is done correctly and your wishes are fulfilled. Generally speaking, however, some type of will is better than no will at all, so if you absolutely are opposed to utilizing an attorney or simply cannot afford one, these alternative options are available.
“Do I need a lawyer for a will?” is a common question, and I hope that this post has helped answer it.