While estate planning, it is important to create a will that is legally binding and enforceable. Otherwise, one of your beneficiaries, or a disgruntled non-beneficiary, could challenge the will in court, which could result in a long, drawn-out process that could prevent your heirs from receiving their property in a timely manner. Another possible scenario is that your will could be determined completely invalid, meaning that your property would be disposed of according to the rules of intestacy, which do not take your wishes into consideration.
Since you will not be there to explain what you intended when writing your will, it is important to write a document that meets the standards for validity. These vary somewhat depending on the state in which you wrote the will, but some basics usually apply across jurisdictions.
The most basic requirement for a will is that it needs to be written down. Though video wills are a common trope in movies and television, in reality these are rarely, if ever, accepted. At best, a video will is typically considered a supplement to a written will.
Because not all states recognize the validity of a handwritten will, it is best to type it out. People sometimes use a prewritten form to make out a will and fill in the blanks in their own handwriting. However, a mixture of typing and handwriting can call the validity of the will into question. Regardless of whether you type your will or write it out by hand, you should use the same method throughout the entire document to avoid any confusion.
Once you’ve written your will, it is a universal requirement that you sign and date it. It is also often required that you sign the will in the presence of two witnesses who then also sign to attest to the validity of your signature. It is a good idea to choose witnesses who do not stand to inherit anything from you. In some states, if an “interested” party witnesses a will, he or she forfeits the right to receive a bequest.
“Testator” is the legal term for someone who writes a will. For the document to be valid, you must intend to make a will and sign it voluntarily. You must have the testamentary capacity to understand what you are doing by making a will and be of a legal age to do so. Ordinarily, the minimum age at which it is legal to write a will is 18, but exceptions may be made if you are a military member or legally married.
The best way to ensure the legality of a will is to discuss it with a wills lawyer in St. Peters, Missouri. Contact a law office for an appointment.
Thanks to the Legacy Law Center for their insight into estate planning and writing a will.