Can You Make a Will Without a Lawyer?

You’ve heard about the importance of making a will, but you don’t have one yet. You’re not alone. Many Americans just haven’t gotten around to creating their will, while others worry about the legal fees and time costs of planning their estate. Wondering if you can make a will without a lawyer in Arizona? We have the answer.

Six in ten Americans believe wills are important yet only 32% actually have one, according to data collected in a 2020 Caring.com survey.1 Why the difference? Some people haven’t made a will because they don’t believe they have enough assets to warrant having one right now. Others think the process is overly complicated or will take too much time.

Around half of the survey’s respondents said they don’t have a will because they just “haven’t gotten around to it.”1 One potential reason for this delay is the belief that a lawyer must be involved in the process — which could mean expensive legal fees and high document preparation costs. So, do you really need a lawyer to make a will? The answer might surprise you.

Making a Will

A will is a document that outlines how a person’s assets will be allocated after their passing. It may also include requests for the person’s preferred funeral arrangements and a guardianship clause that outlines who would get custody of minor children upon the death of both parents. Unlike a trust, which goes into effect immediately, a will only comes into play upon death.

Before you sit down to make your will, you’ll need to make some critical decisions about your children (if applicable), beneficiaries, property and assets. Read our blog on getting a will for additional details on these important steps.

Is a Lawyer Necessary?

In the state of Arizona, you don’t have to hire an attorney to have your will prepared. While you can choose to work with a lawyer, you may also make your own will or engage a legal document preparer to assist you. Requirements for a will include:

  • You must be 18 or older and in sound mind.
  • You must sign the will. Alternative options are available if you are physically unable to do so.
  • You must have two witnesses to the signing of the will.

Keep in mind those are only the basics. For more details and specifics, you may wish to consult a Wills & Trusts representative. Because a will only covers asset distribution and the fulfilling of last wishes after death, you’ll need additional documents such as Medical or Financial Powers of Attorney if you want to designate someone to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated.

A certified legal document preparer such as a Desert Financial Wills & Trusts representative is equipped to help you create a will or review your existing will to ensure it is accurate and up to date. For assistance with more complex family situations or large estates, your representative may refer you to a tax specialist, financial advisor or attorney. You can also opt to make your will with the help of a legal document preparer and have the documents reviewed by an attorney specializing in this area if you wish to do so.

What Happens if You Don’t Have a Will?

If you pass without leaving a will or having a trust set up, your estate will go into probate. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, probate is the legal process that takes place after death to determine how a person’s assets will be allocated. This process can be lengthy and expensive if you don’t have the proper preparations in place.

“Probate involves court fees and a waiting period, as well as potential legal costs with an attorney. These activities will need to take place during a stressful time since your family is mourning,” says Matt Osborn, Wills and Trusts Supervisor at Desert Financial. “With a little planning, you can leave your family with a smoother transition so they can carry out your wishes.”

The Bottom Line

While many estate planning problems can be avoided and individualized solutions created by working with an attorney or a Wills & Trusts representative, the most important thing to focus on is getting your will in place. The majority of respondents to the Caring.com survey believe that you should have a will by the time you are 35 years old, yet less than 30% of those ages 35-54 actually have one.1 Regardless of your age, if you have a family or own a home, you may want to consider getting a will or trust now. “It is a final gift you can give your loved ones,” says Osborn.

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Wills & Trusts: Document preparation services are offered through Desert Financial Credit Union; an Arizona Supreme Court Certified Legal Document Preparation Business Entity (CLDP #81024). Legal document preparation services are not insured by the NCUA and have no credit union guarantee.

1https://www.caring.com/caregivers/estate-planning/wills-survey

The material presented here is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be used as financial, investment, or legal advice.