Writing a legal will ensures that your property and assets are distributed according to your wishes after you die. In the United States, each state has enacted its own laws to regulate the writing of wills within its jurisdiction. In Wisconsin, the law regarding wills is contained in Chapter 853 of the Wisconsin statutes. The initial criteria for a legal will are that the writer -- known as the testator -- must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind.
Writing a Will
According to Chapter 853.03, a legally valid will must be in writing. The testator must sign it or direct another person to sign on his behalf. At least two witnesses should then sign the will within a reasonable time after the testator’s signature. Individuals who will benefit from the will may not act as witnesses.
Changing a Will
A codicil is a short document that supplements a will and is useful for making small changes. If a codicil is to be legally valid, it must be signed and witnessed with the same legal formalities as the original will. Most testators place the codicil with the original will for safe-keeping after signing.
Revoking a Will
According to Chapter 853.11, a testator may revoke a will either completely or partly by writing a subsequent will. It is advisable, although not necessary, for the testator to state in the subsequent will that it supersedes the prior will. If the subsequent will disposes of the whole of the testator’s estate, the law presumes that it replaces the prior will. If, on the other hand, the subsequent will does not completely dispose of the testator’s estate, the law will presume that it is intended to supplement the original will and not replace it. The testator may choose to revoke his will by destroying it, provided it is clear that this is his intention.
Wisconsin Basic Will
The Wisconsin basic will is a simple document that individuals can complete without the help of a lawyer. It is set out in Chapter 853.55, and can be printed and signed by anyone wishing to execute a straightforward and legally binding will. The testator must sign the basic will where indicated, and the signature must be witnessed in the same manner as any other will. The basic will is not suitable for all. For example, it does not apply to testators who have children from a previous marriage or those who have business property.