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Do I Need a Lawyer for a Will?

October 24, 2018

Do I need a Lawyer for a Will?

"What you don't know can't hurt you" does NOT apply to estate planning.

Did you know that more than half of Americans don't have an estate plan? It's understandable. Many people aren't comfortable thinking about their own mortality.

Knowing that your assets will go to your chosen heirs is an important reason to have a will, but equally as important is ensuring the wellbeing and guardianship of your children and other dependents. The more specific or complicated your desires may be, the more likely you'll need a professional's guidance.

DIY or Hire a Lawyer to Help?

You have several options when it comes to preparing a will. You can write it yourself, pay for generic forms from a website, or you can have a lawyer draft the will for you.

Writing your own will is certainly cheaper at the onset, but it is not always advisable. An experienced attorney can guide you through the best ways to protect your assets during distribution and ensure that your wishes are carried out. Estate planning can be complicated if you have young children or have previously remarried.

Some websites offer DIY software or documents for a fee. These services are designedly generic and may suit straightforward needs, but are otherwise very limited in their scope.

Louisiana has several provisions in its succession law that can cause unintended consequences that are not addressed by DIY or website wills. Examples are forced heirship, representation of a deceased heir, or minor heirs without trust oversight. An experienced estate planning attorney can help avoid unintended consequences and can set up proper bequests.

Making Your Will Legal

In general, your will has to be signed by a Notary Public and at least two witnesses. It also has to have a date and your signature.

Louisiana has an exception to those requirements called an olographic will, commonly referred to as holographic in other states. This is a handwritten will with your signature, but it also must explicitly state that it is your will, include the date of execution, and contain details specifying how to disperse your assets to named beneficiaries.

Filing your will with a government agency is not a requirement. Just ensure your executor knows where you keep your will and can access it if needed.

As for changes to your will, you can amend it anytime you wish. You can either make a new one or attach a codicil to your existing one. In this scenario, you may want to consult an attorney to help answer questions or concerns that prompted the alterations.

Final Answer: Do I Need a Lawyer for a Will?

You can write your own will, but consulting a lawyer is highly recommended. During a consultation, an experienced attorney will likely ask questions you never thought to address in your will. The old proverb "What you don't know can't hurt you" does not apply to estate planning. If your needs are simple and straightforward, a preliminary consult may be all the help you need. Moreover, you'll rest easier knowing you've done your due diligence, ensuring your will complies with state law and your assets and bequests are handled according to your wishes.

If you have questions or need assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us.