You may have heard of Wills, you may even know that you need one, but do you know what makes a Will valid?
Why Valid Wills Are Important.
Your Last Will and Testament (“Will”) determines how your property is divided when you die and who gets what. Having a Will is one of the most important things you can do to protect your estate and your loved ones.
Having a Will is important for many reasons. The most critical one is that a Will helps your estate avoid probate. If you die without a Will, your estate will have to be probated and your property will pass through your state’s intestacy laws. Probate is a long and often expensive process.
Although a person’s Will also goes through probate, the process is a whole different animal. It is faster, cheaper and far less complicated because the probate judge has the Will to tell him/her what your wishes are and who gets what. Without a Will, the probate judge must make his or her own determinations.
The Formalities of a Valid Will.
But what exactly makes a Will valid?
In part, what makes a will valid depends on the laws of the state in which you live. Each state has its own legal requirements for what makes a valid will which is why you should consult with counsel in the state in which you live. However, most states have the same or similar requirements and most will accept a Will that was made in another state.
In addition to other formalities for making a Will (see below) you must be at least 18 years old and you must be “of sound mind.” Basically, that means that you must know the extent of your property, know that in making a Will you are giving instructions for disposing of that property, and you must know who would naturally benefit from your death (i.e., close family members).
Generally speaking, to be valid a Will must:
- Be a written document (meaning typed or printed);
- Be signed by the person making the Will (the “testator” or “testatrix”); and,
- It must be signed by two witnesses. The two witnesses must have been present when the maker of the will (the testator or testatrix) signed it and must have witnessed the Will, and they must also have witnessed each other sign the document.
While not all states recognize holographic (handwritten) wills, Arizona does. This does not mean, however, that holographic wills are a good idea. They are not. Because they are not drafted by trusts and estates counsel, handwritten wills almost always contain costly mistakes and errors and can often be rejected by the probate court which means it is the same as having no Will at all.
A Will that meets all the formalities ensures that your wishes will be carried out.
Your Most Important Document.
The importance of having a valid and enforceable will cannot be overemphasized. Your Will does not just pass on your property. It is how you leave a legacy to those you love the most. The best way to be certain that your estate plan documents will be correct, up-to-date, complete, and enforceable, is to meet with competent and experienced estate planning counsel.
A Trusts and Estates Lawyer Can Ensure That Your Will is Valid.
When you entrust your estate planning needs to competent counsel, you decide how you want your estate to be distributed and to whom. We Are Estate Planning Attorneys in Arizona. We have offices in Sedona and we serve Verde Valley as well as all of Arizona. We offer free consultations and we can help you with your estate planning needs. Contact us to set up your free appointment.