What Is a 'Valid Will'?

The making of a will is a vitally important act, with far-reaching consequences. Since you cannot “take it with you” when you die, having a valid will is one of the few ways you can give back to those you love in a proper, legal manner.

A properly executed will allows you to specify exactly how you would like your estate handled upon your death, including how and to whom property should be divided, who should watch over your minor children (if any), and who should manage the administration of your estate.

While the rules for making a will vary from state to state, certain formalities must be met. Generally, a will is not valid unless it fulfills the following requirements.

Legal Age

A person must be of legal age to make a will. Most states consider you to have legal capacity if you are 18 years of age or older, have been lawfully married, or are a member of the U.S. military.

Testamentary Capacity

In most states, a person has ‘testamentary capacity” if they have a sound mind, meaning the testator must know that he or she is making a will and its effect; understand the nature and extent of the estate; and understand that he or she is disposing of property and assets.

Intent

A person has intent to make a will if at the time of the signing, he or she intends to make a revocable disposition of property in the event of their death.

Voluntary

A will must be voluntarily entered into and signed by the testator. A will executed by a person who was coerced into signing the will, or who signed the will under duress, is not considered to be a valid will.

Proper Disposal of Property

A will must properly dispose of the testator’s property. This includes listing all property and assets and properly distributing them among friends and family according to the testator's wishes.

Signed, Dated and Witnessed by Two Other Parties

A will can be handwritten on a single piece of paper or elaborately typed within multiple pages, depending on the size of the estate and preference of the testator. It must also be signed and dated by the testator in front of two “disinterested” witnesses, who must also sign. Disinterested witnesses include those who will not personally benefit under the will (like beneficiaries).

Because there may be other formalities for making a valid will, it is important that you check the Estate Planning Laws of your particular state. You should also make sure to choose the appropriate legal guardian for your minor children and appoint a trusted executor to tie up your important affairs.

Finally, it may be wise to speak with an estate planning attorney in your area to make sure your will is valid.

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Free Estate Planning Attorney Match

What's next after reading this article? You have several options, but the wisest choice is to consult with an estate planning attorney in your area to get your questions answered. Having a valid and legally binding will is important to you and your loved ones. Want to learn more? Start now with a free estate planning attorney match at no obligation.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified estate planning attorney to help you ensure that your loved ones are cared for and your wishes are honored.

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