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Is Your Will Legally Valid?

Posted by Dana Law Group on June 25, 2020

Nobody likes thinking about “the end,” but it’s something we all must do. And if you’re like many people, you want to have some form of control over what happens after you are gone. You want to be able to have a say with how your possessions are handled, and you probably would like to dictate how your remains are put to rest. If you have a family, you want to make sure that they’ll be taken care of should anything happen to you.

It is for all of these reasons that wills exist. Perhaps you’ve already written one, in which case we commend you for taking action. But do you know for sure that your will is legally valid?

There are many websites these days that advertise “free will writing” or “writing a will in under 20 minutes.” But while these websites seem attractive on the surface, the truth is that many do not actually result in legal wills. All it takes is one small mistake, and your loved ones are left to deal with the complications and confusion that come with sorting out your estate.

What Makes a Will ‘Legal’? 

When we talk about a will being “legal”, we are referring to whether or not a will is valid in the eyes of the law. Estate planning laws vary from state to state, but generally speaking, a will must meet the following requirements in order to be valid:

  • Only adults aged 18 or older, or legally emancipated minors, may write a will.
  • Your will must not direct / involve any illegal activities or property.
  • You must be considered mentally sound (sane) and fully capable of understanding your will while you are writing it.
  • You must have at least two witnesses present when you sign your will. State laws vary on this, but in most cases, neither witness can be a beneficiary of your will (some states do allow for one of the witnesses to also be a beneficiary though, so it is important to know your own state requirements on this).
  • When you do sign your will, you must be physically capable of doing so, or you must designate someone to do it for you in your presence.

What About ‘Holographic’ Wills?

In some states, you are able to entirely hand write your will, in which case it will be known as a “holographic” will. For it to be valid, there can be no printed material or any writing on the page that is not in your own hand. You do not need witness signatures for this type of will.

What Actually Happens When a Will isn’t Valid?

If your will is deemed invalid at the time of your death, a few different things can happen. If you do not have a large estate, the state will most likely turn everything over to your closest-living family members or “next of kin”. In other situations, your estate could end up being contested will be divided up in whatever way the court sees fit. Either way, there’s no guarantee that your wishes will be followed when you have an invalid will.

The good news is that you can make sure your will is legal and covering all the areas you need it to by enlisting the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. Don’t leave things up to chance — make sure your will is legally valid today.