It depends. Most wills are drafted with the help of a lawyer, either to help write the document or to review it once it is written. Depending on the size of your estate and the complexity of your wishes, it may make sense to have a lawyer help you in drafting your will. However, a will does not have to be written by a lawyer or any other professional as long as it follows the laws laid out by the state in which the will is being executed. Larger estates or estates with complex bequests will benefit greatly from having a lawyer to ensure that your wishes are being accurately represented and will be executed properly.
Here are a few different considerations for you when deciding what type of assistance you want while writing and finalizing this important document:
Surrogate’s Court’s Small Estate Affidavit Program
The Surrogate’s Court of New York is the court that deals with estates. For estates of small size (less than $30,000), the Court has set up an online interview process that will help you draft a will.
Lawyers: We cannot refer you to or recommend a specific lawyer. However below, we provide information that may help you find a lawyer suitable to your circumstances who can assist you in creating a will.
- Choosing a lawyer early on in the process is very important for a number of reasons. In particular, lawyers can help you with creating a legally valid will. They can offer valuable advice regarding the tax consequences of how you deal with your artwork (i.e. whether you donate it to a charitable institution or give it to friends/family could have a significant impact on your estate’s tax burden).
- If you are unable to afford a lawyer, there may be attorneys that would be willing to take on your case pro bono (for free). For example, if you live in New York City, you might contact the Trusts and Estates Section of the City Bar Justice Center. It runs a legal clinic to advise “low-income people on personal planning, end-of-life, and estate matters.” The hotline operates Monday through Friday, and can be reached at (212-626-7383). You can also use resources found at the New York Court’s Lawyer Locator page.
- Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts is a not-for-profit organization that provides free legal assistance to artists. You may request assistance by clicking here.
Online Will Assembly Programs and “Hybrid” Resources
While consulting with an attorney in person is highly recommended, there are a number of online resources one can use to complete a will in many states. You will have to pay for these services if you decide to use them but the fees are generally lower than retaining a lawyer. Many of these services allow you to consult with an attorney to review your will or to answer questions you may have for an additional fee. It is important to make sure that the service you use applies the law in your state as laws will vary from state to state. NOTE: We are not endorsing in any way any of the resources listed below. We provide them merely as information for you to consider. These tools include: