Posted by Dana Law Group on March 17, 2020
Nobody wants to think that their last wishes won’t be followed after their death. But the truth is that the only way to ensure they are is to have a valid last will and testament. Now, if you’re like many people, you may be surprised to learn that a will created online or written down without legal consultation (or legal approval) may not actually be considered legal by the government.
The good news is that it’s not too late to make sure you have a legally valid will. It all starts with enlisting the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, so please feel free to reach out to us at any time. In the meantime, here are some things you should know:
How a Will is Determined to Be Legally Valid
The legal validity of your will is to be determined by the state. While the exact requirements do vary state to state (which is also why it is important to update your will whenever you move across state lines), they generally follow the same requirement categories. For example, the state will look at how old you were when you wrote your will, making sure that you meet their minimum age requirements (usually age 18 or older).
The state will also look at whether you were of sound mind when your created the will and were in full understanding of your intentions. Your signature must also be on the will, and in most states you need at least two witnesses present at the signing. Please reach out to us to learn more about your specific state will requirements.
What Happens When Someone Does Not Have a Valid Will?
When someone passes away without a legal will, there are a number of things that can happen. Your estate (your possessions, property, finances, etc.) will go into court review, and they could decide to simply follow the state intestacy laws. In a nutshell, these laws generally mean that your estate will be passed to your closest living relatives, regardless of what your personal relationship with them was like. Your estate will also mostly likely be held if you have any remaining debts, and the court will determine how it can be used to pay off those debts. If there are any disputes over your estate (from relatives, banks and credit holders, etc.), the court could hold off on making a decision for quite some time.
Now, if you have a will that was created either online or written down but is not considered legally valid, it is possible that your surviving loved ones may follow it nonetheless. That said, disputes are very common (even among family members who get along otherwise), and in those cases the decision will be left up to the state or an outside attorney who may not have known you or what you actually wanted.
How to Make Sure You Have a Valid Will
Again, the first step in ensuring you write up a legally valid is enlisting the help of an estate attorney. We will make sure all state legal requirements are followed.
Now, it’s important to note that just having a legal will in place does not necessarily mean that your estate will not wind up under court review. Instead, a legal will just makes the whole process easier and, in most cases, speeds things along. Most importantly, it takes away unnecessary stress away from your surviving loved ones and ensures that your wishes are followed when you are no longer there.