A will is more than just a legal document; it’s a declaration of your intentions, a testament to your wishes, and a safeguard for your loved ones. With a will, you not only ensure financial stability for those left behind but also guarantee that your assets are distributed as you desire.

According to the Forbes Finance Council, a will is instrumental in:

  • Dictating the distribution of your estate
  • Preventing disputes, which can save time and money
  • Nominating an executor of your choice
  • Planning for potential estate taxes
  • Appointing guardians for minor children in the unfortunate event of both parents passing

Beyond these essential reasons, crafting a will without a lawyer offers significant savings on legal fees, affording you greater control over the drafting process. Continue reading to learn how to make a will without a lawyer.

Why Consider Making a Will Without a Lawyer?

A common question among those beginning the estate planning process is, “Can I write my own will?” The answer is yes, and there are many reasons to consider this path. The modern DIY approach is cost-effective, especially for straightforward estates. Yahoo Finance suggests that while a simple will can cost around $200 with an attorney, more intricate estates might result in bills surging into the thousands.

Additionally, a DIY will offers:

  • The freedom to modify: Adjustments can be made without constant legal consultations.
  • A quick process: Most can pen down their wishes from the comfort of their home in mere hours.

Key Considerations Before You Start

Before writing your will, here are some preliminary considerations to ensure the end document reflects your wishes and is legally binding.

Simple Estates

A straightforward estate usually comprises assets without encumbrances or special conditions. Think of it as a linear transition of assets like personal savings, a family home, or personal belongings.

State Regulations

Will regulations are state-specific. Requirements for a legally valid will in California might differ from those in Texas. This could encompass everything from witness prerequisites to stipulations regarding the will’s execution.

Assets and Beneficiaries

Every item — monetary or sentimental — must be clearly identified. This clarity avoids potential disputes among beneficiaries. Whether it’s jewelry or a sum of money, ensure each item’s intended recipient is unmistakably defined.

Guardians for Minors

Should something happen to both parents, a guardian will step in. This is an important decision, considering the guardian would be responsible for the upbringing, education, and overall welfare of the child.


This individual oversees the fulfillment of your wishes posthumously. From ensuring debts are paid to making certain assets reach the right hands, the executor holds a position of immense responsibility.


Generally, most states mandate the presence of two witnesses during the signing of the will. Their role is to validate the document’s authenticity and the testator’s soundness of mind.

7-Step DIY Guide to Writing Your Own Will

Drafting a will might seem overwhelming, but breaking it down into manageable steps can simplify the process. If you’re wondering how to write your own will without a lawyer, follow this straightforward process.

Step 1: Give Your Will a Clear Title

This isn’t just a formality. A clear title such as, “The Last Will and Testament of [Your Full Name],” sets the tone and unmistakably defines the document’s intent.

Step 2: List Your Assets

Assets are more than just bank balances. They encompass real estate holdings, personal items such as jewelry or art, investments in stocks or bonds, and even digital assets. Differentiating and valuating them helps in equitable distribution.

Step 3: Assign Your Beneficiaries

Consider your beneficiaries’ needs, ages, and personal circumstances. Designating a trust for minors or staggering financial disbursements may be advisable strategies.

Step 4: Appoint a Guardian for Minors

Deliberate on shared values, financial stability, and the presence of a nurturing environment.

Step 5: Name Your Estate Executor

Beyond trustworthiness, consider the individual’s organizational skills, diplomacy (especially if disputes arise), and basic financial literacy.

Step 6: Sign Your Will in Front of 2 Witnesses

While friends might seem like the obvious choice, it’s essential that witnesses have no stake in the will. Impartiality ensures their testimony holds in potential legal scenarios.

Step 7: Find a Place for Safe Storage

While safeguarding the will against physical damage is crucial, it’s equally vital that the executor or a trusted individual knows its location, whether it’s a safety deposit box, with an attorney, or elsewhere.

Associated Costs of Writing Your Own Will

Numerous tools and platforms can aid the DIY will-writing process. However, each comes with its set of costs.

DIY Will Kits

From comprehensive platforms to more user-friendly options, the market offers a range. Weigh the cost against features, usability, and reviews.

Notary Fees

In some jurisdictions, having the will notarized can add an extra layer of legitimacy. While not always mandatory, it’s a small cost for added peace of mind.

Future Legal Fees

If ambiguities arise or if a beneficiary contests, legal fees might be incurred. A well-drafted, unambiguous will can significantly minimize this risk.

The Pros & Cons of a DIY Will

Every approach, including the DIY route, has its merits and pitfalls. Fully understanding these can help in making an informed decision.

Advantages of Writing Your Own Will

  • Savings: The absence of attorney fees can lead to substantial savings, especially for simple estates.
  • Flexibility: As life changes, so can the will. Whether it’s adding a newly born grandchild or adjusting asset distribution, modifications are hassle-free.
  • Privacy: Keeping personal details private is a privilege the DIY route offers. Unlike attorney-drafted wills, which might end up as public records, a DIY will remains confidential until execution.
  • Accessibility: Knowing where your will is and accessing it without barriers is another benefit of the DIY approach.

Disadvantages of Writing Your Own Will

  • Lack of legal oversight: Without professional legal oversight, there’s potential for mistakes or misinterpretations, especially concerning state-specific regulations.
  • Mistakes: Simple errors, from asset misclassification to ambiguous phrasing, can lead to disputes or misinterpretations.
  • Complexity: Not all estates are simple. Diverse assets, properties across states, or international holdings can make the DIY approach less than ideal.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Ensuring your will is free of mistakes is pivotal. Evading common pitfalls can guarantee the document stands firm against scrutiny. Here are a few of the most common mistakes, according to AARP.

  • Being too vague in your asset descriptions: Instead of, “my car,” specify, “my 2020 Tesla Model S with VIN XYZ123.” Precision prevents disputes.
  • Forgetting to update beneficiaries: Births, deaths, marriages, or even changes in personal relationships can alter one’s beneficiary preferences. Regular updates keep the will current.
  • Not considering backups for beneficiaries or guardians: Always have a Plan B. If a primary beneficiary or guardian is unable to fulfill their role, a secondary option prevents uncertainties.
  • Forgetting to sign or get the will witnessed: An unsigned will, or one without adequate witnesses, can be easily contested and rendered null.

Reviewing and Updating Your Will

A will is not a one-time affair. As with all legal documents reflecting personal choices, it must evolve with life’s ebb and flow. Financial changes, relationship dynamics, or even shifts in state laws can necessitate revisions. Periodic reviews, especially following significant events such as births, divorces, or major acquisitions, ensure your will stays up-to-date and relevant.


Can I draft my own will?

Yes, you certainly can draft your own will. The key is ensuring it adheres to your state’s specific regulations and clearly outlines your intentions. You can find more California-specific information here. While many opt for this to save on legal fees, always ensure that the will is comprehensive and leaves no room for misinterpretation.

How frequently should my will be updated?

It’s advisable to review your will every few years and certainly after significant life events. These events include milestones like marriages, births, divorces, or substantial financial changes. Regular updates ensure your will remains a true reflection of your wishes.

Do you need a lawyer to make a will?

Not necessarily. For many, especially those with straightforward estates, a DIY approach is feasible. However, if your estate has complexities or if you’re unsure about legal stipulations, consulting a lawyer might be prudent to ensure your will is legally sound.

Can a DIY will be legally binding?

Absolutely. A DIY will can be just as binding as one created with a lawyer, provided it meets all legal requirements of your jurisdiction. This often includes proper phrasing, the presence of witnesses during signing, and adherence to state-specific mandates.

Your DIY Will: Final Thoughts

Writing a will is a crucial step in financial and personal responsibility. While the DIY approach brings autonomy and cost savings, it demands due diligence to ensure the document is legally sound and reflects your wishes.

Here’s where a legal document assistant (LDA) can bridge the gap. LDAs are professionals trained to assist individuals in preparing and processing legal documents without the direct oversight of an attorney. They can help ensure that your DIY will meets all necessary criteria, is structured correctly, and adheres to state-specific regulations, all without incurring the high costs of hiring an attorney.

With the expertise of an LDA like A People’s Choice, you get the best of both worlds — the cost savings and autonomy of a DIY will combined with the confidence that your document is written with professional oversight.

Ready to get started? Start your will today with A People’s Choice. With over 40 years of experience in the field, our established reputation guarantees that your will stands as a testament to your wishes.