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Signing a Will

So long as you have followed all of the content rules your state requires regarding making wills legal, you have composed a valid last will and testament. The only thing left to do in making wills legal is the signing process. Follow these simple steps to ensure that your will is legally signed and validated.

Have witnesses sign

Date and sign your own will in the presence of two witnesses who are over the age of 18. If you live in Vermont, you will need to do this in the presence of three witnesses. Most states require the witnesses to watch you sign your will together, before they sign. A few states allow the witnesses to sign the will later, so long as you tell them that it is your valid will and that it is your signature on it. It is best to do it all together, to avoid any potential challenges, later.

Most states require that the witnesses be people who are not named heirs in the will. Furthermore, if you had a lawyer draft your will, then you may not use that lawyer as a witness, either.

About half of the states allow what is called a "holographic" will. These are handwritten wills. As long as the testators of these wills handwrite them in their entirety, sign them and date them they make these holographic wills legal, even without witnesses. Holographic wills are the easiest wills to challenge, because there are no witnesses; so, it is best to try and avoid making a holographic will.

Have your witnesses sign a self-proving affidavit

There is no legal requirement of notary signing for your will. However, it is a good idea to have your witnesses sign what is called a "self-proving" affidavit. This is a statement that is sworn by your witnesses before a notary public. Having this affidavit relieves your witnesses from having to swear in probate court to the validity of your will.

Notify your executor or executrix

There is no requirement to file your will with the court. You should tell your executor (the personal representative who will carry out your will for you) about the existence and location of your will. Most people like to keep their will in a safe deposit box.

Residence requirement

As long as you created a valid legal will according to the state in which you live, then the will is valid in any state where you die. When you move to a different state, review that state's laws regarding how to make wills legal and marital property (if you're married). Most likely, you will find that your will is still valid. However, if that state has different requirements, you should revise your will accordingly.

For example, Tess lived in Texas where she created a valid legal will. She then decided to move to Vermont. Tess checked with Vermont's requirements on what makes wills legal, and discovered that she needed a third witness, when she only had two in Texas. Therefore, Tess revised her will and used three witnesses, rather than two.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified estate planning attorney to help you ensure
that your loved ones are cared for and your wishes are honored.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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