Wills and Estates

Writing Your Will

What do I have to do to make my will legally valid?

After you’ve drawn up your will, you must take the formal legal step of executing the will. This requires having at least two witnesses who have no potential conflict of interest. As a general rule, the witnesses watch you sign and each witness then signs in the presence of the other. If your will is executed in a lawyer’s office, two other attorneys or support staff might serve as witnesses.

A valid will also requires that:

  • you are of legal age, 18 in most states;
  • you are mentally competent, i.e., that you know you are executing your will and know the general nature and extent of your property and your descendants or other relatives who would be expected to share in your estate;
  • the will must have a substantive provision that disposes of your property and must indicate your intent to make the document your final word on what happens to your property;
  • with rare exceptions, such as imminent death, the will must be written;
  • you must sign the will unless illness, accident, or illiteracy prevents it, in which case you can designate someone to sign for you in your presence;
  • your signature must be witnessed by at least two adults who understand that they are witnessing a will and are competent to testify in court.

If your will doesn’t meet all of these conditions, it might be disallowed by a court and your estate might be distributed according to state law instead.

>>Why should I go to the trouble of writing a will?
>>What happens if I die without a will?
>>What is a video will?
>>What do I have to do to make my will legally valid?
>>Can I leave my property to anyone I wish?
>>Can I disinherit my spouse and children?


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