Is a Will a Legal Document?

by Piper Li
A will is also able to direct how your debts are paid.

A will is also able to direct how your debts are paid.

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Creating a will is an important aspect of planning for your future. Without a will, a court can determine how to distribute your assets after your death. A court may also decide whom to appoint as guardians for your minor children. In order to be legal, your will must meet certain requirements.

Purpose

Your legal will allows you to provide instructions as to how you want your estate handled after your death. This document serves the purpose of letting the courts understand how you want the assets that you name distributed. You may use your will to provide instructions to donate certain finances to charities, leave real estate to beneficiaries and distribute sentimental belongings to friends. Another purpose of a will is to name an executor, who is the person who will assist with the administration of your estate. You may make changes to your will to ensure this legal document continues to reflect your current wishes.

Requirements

State laws that govern the requirements for executing wills may vary. Most states require you to be over the age of 18 to execute a valid will. Your will should indicate your intent to make the document your final word on how you wish to distribute your property and include your signature, as well as the signatures of two adult witnesses who are competent to testify in a court of law.

Exceptions

A probate court will determine the validity of your will. In some instances, the court may accept wills that don’t meet the general requirements. If you are unable to sign your own will, the judge may accept the signature of someone you designate to sign in your stead. Some courts may allow holographic wills, which are wills that are entirely handwritten and don’t need the signatures of witnesses. Since interested individuals may challenge the validity of your will in court, following your state’s guidelines will help ensure that your will is legal, allowing you to voice your final wishes.

Considerations

Although you don’t require an attorney to create a valid will, seeking legal counsel when executing this legal document can help ensure that your wording is accurate and your will meets your state’s requirements. You should let your executor know where to locate your final will.