computer and coffee

If you write your own will, is it legal?


Q. If you write your own will and have it notarized, will it be just as legal as using an attorney?
— Do-it-yourselfer?

A. Yes, provided it meets all legal requirements.

There are some items you need to know to avoid any problems.

Under New Jersey law, a will is valid if it is signed willingly and voluntarily by a person who is 18 years of age or older who knows and understands the contents of the will, is of sound mind, and under no constraint or undue influence, said Tom Szieber, a trusts and estates attorney at Herold Law in Warren.

It also has to be signed by two witnesses, he said.

“Although a notary is not required for the will to be considered valid, the validity of a non-notarized will must be proven via testimony before the surrogate of the county where the testator — that is, the person who made the will — resided when he or she died,” Szieber said.

A notarized will that meets those standards is considered “self-proving” and therefore can be admitted to probate without testimony, Szieber said.

“It is immaterial whether the will is typed or handwritten, and there is no requirement that the will be drafted by an attorney,” he said. “However, it may be in the best interests of the testator to consult with an attorney and to have the attorney draft the will to ensure that it addresses all considerations that are of importance and relevance to the testator.”

Szieber said a will that does not comply with the requirements could still be probated as a “writing intended as a will,” though the standard for the admittance of such a document to probate is high.

Whether it is admitted must be decided by application to the Superior Court of New Jersey, he said.

Email your questions to .

This story was originally published on Sept. 1, 2021. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.