Probate Court Requirements for a Last Will & Testament

By Anna Assad

Your Last Will and Testament must meet the probate court requirements set forth in your state's laws; otherwise, your statement of your final wishes and directions may not be used in court. Probate proceedings are used to legally settle your estate after death if there's a valid will. A will that does not meet state requirements may not be admitted for probate.

Your Last Will and Testament must meet the probate court requirements set forth in your state's laws; otherwise, your statement of your final wishes and directions may not be used in court. Probate proceedings are used to legally settle your estate after death if there's a valid will. A will that does not meet state requirements may not be admitted for probate.

Writing the Will

Your will must be in writing in some states, like Maryland, to be admitted to probate. The will does not have to be typed; a handwritten will may be acceptable, but the court must make decisions on words if your handwriting is not entirely legible. You may record your will on audiotape or videotape in order to prevent questions about your competence later when your estate is in probate, but a video or audio will alone may not meet the validity requirements under your state's probate laws.

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Signature

Your Last Will and Testament must be signed by you. If you are unable to physically sign the will, you may be able to direct a person to sign for you, but proof of your consent must exist and the signing must be done in your presence. Some states require the will itself to include a note that the document was signed by someone you selected; if someone does sign for you without notation or documentation, your signature may be contested by your heirs.

Witnesses' Signature and Presence

Your will must be witnessed by the number of individuals specified under your state's probate laws; many states commonly require two witnesses. The witnesses must be mentally competent and considered an adult in your state, typically age 18 or older. The witnesses must see you sign the will and sign the document themselves, usually in a designated witness section at the end of the will. Some states do not have laws preventing beneficiaries from witnessing a will, but having one of your heirs sign your will as a witness may open up your will to be contested by other heirs in the future.

Naming an Executor

An executor or executrix is the person who you designate to manage the affairs of your estate. The executor carries out the directions and provisions in your will, distributes items and money to your heirs and manages the assets of the estate. Some states require you to name an executor in your will in order to open legal proceedings for your estate. Your heirs may be able to obtain a court order allowing a person to act as the executor, but his ability to fulfill the duties may be more limited and restricted by the court than if you had appointed him.

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Is a Handwritten Will Legal in Washington State?

References

Related articles

How to Write a Will in Wyoming

A will is a legal document that transfers your assets upon death. A person who makes a will is called a testator; the individuals who stand to inherit under the will are referred to as beneficiaries. Wyoming will requirements are not complex, but failure to comply with Wyoming law could result in your will being contested or invalidated. In Wyoming, a will should be either handwritten or typed. Wyoming does not recognize an audio or video recording of your final wishes as a will. Wyoming does recognize holographic wills. Holographic wills do not have to meet the formal requirements to be valid; however, they are much more likely to be contested than a handwritten or typed will.

Is a Hand-Written Notarized Will Legal?

Your will can direct the distribution of your property after your death, name someone you trust to manage your estate and even nominate a guardian for your minor children. But your will can't do any of that if it isn't valid in your state. Generally, a handwritten will is just as legally valid as a typed or printed will as long as it meets your state's standards.

How Many People Must Sign a Will for it to Be Legal?

The number of people needed to sign your will for it to be legal varies depending on where you live and the details of your will, but most states require that you, as the testator, and two witnesses must sign it. As of December 2010, only Vermont requires three witnesses' signatures in addition to the testator's. Check with an attorney in your area to learn what a will in your state requires.

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