Rules About Wills

By A.L. Kennedy

Your will explains to those you leave behind how you want them to deal with your property when you die. It also allows you to appoint someone you trust to handle your estate, as well as to appoint a guardian for your minor children. Although there is no set form for wills across all states, a few basic rules can make a will valid in the eyes of a probate court.

Your will explains to those you leave behind how you want them to deal with your property when you die. It also allows you to appoint someone you trust to handle your estate, as well as to appoint a guardian for your minor children. Although there is no set form for wills across all states, a few basic rules can make a will valid in the eyes of a probate court.

Testator

The testator is the person who makes the will. Normally, a testator must be at least 18 years old for his will to be considered valid. A testator must also be "of sound mind," meaning that he understands what his will does, who the beneficiaries of the will are and understands the property to be disposed of. In some states, a person under age 18 can make a will if he is a member of the armed forces.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now

Format

A will must almost always be in writing. A few states still accept oral (or nuncupative) wills, but only in dire circumstances and only if they are written down by a witness within a short period of time after the testator dies. A will can be in your own handwriting or typed, however not all states accept handwritten wills. Preprinted will forms are available in many states to help guide you in preparing your will, but they should not be used as a substitute for consulting an attorney.

Contents

Most states impose only a few rules regarding the content of your will. At a minimum, your will should contain a statement that it is your will and that it revokes all other previous wills. Write your name clearly and put the day, month and year on your will. Your will should also contain at least one statement that gives some part of your property to a named person or charity. Finally, your will should be signed and dated. You may wish to name people you trust to be your executor or the guardian of your minor children, but if you do not name anyone, the court will appoint someone.

Witnesses

A written will that is signed and dated by the testator, as well as signed by at least two witnesses, is generally considered valid in 48 states. Some states require witnesses for all wills, while others accept a handwritten will without witnesses -- as long as it is handwritten, signed and dated by the testator. Vermont requires three witnesses to sign a will, while Louisiana requires two witnesses plus a separate notary to sign a will.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now
Pennsylvania's Statute of Wills

References

Resources

Related articles

How Many Different Types of Wills Are There?

A will is a document that explains how to distribute your property after your death. There are several different types of wills, although not all types are valid in all states. In most cases, a will must be in writing and signed by the testator, or person making the will, as well as at least two witnesses. Consult an attorney to find out what types of wills are valid in your state.

How to Make Your Will Legal in Indiana

Your will is a document that explains how to distribute some or all of your property when you die. Wills written in Indiana are governed by the Indiana Probate Code, which is found at Title 29 of the Indiana Code. The Indiana Probate Code gives specific instructions about how to write a will so that it will be recognized as valid and legal by an Indiana Court. You will need to meet several requirements to have a valid Indiana will. You can write your own valid will, but consulting a lawyer for more complicated estates is advisable to ensure compliance with state law.

The Format for a Legal Will

While probate laws defining the format for a valid will vary from state to state, most states acknowledge at least two different types of wills as valid. All states recognize the written will -- the most common format -- which is signed by the testator and two additional witnesses. However, technology and creativity makes way for newer formats, especially when the testator does not have access to the materials needed to execute a traditional will, and state law has evolved to recognize other, less common formats. It is important to note that, with the exception of the written will, not every state recognizes all formats as valid. Testators should always review their residential state’s probate code to determine what formats are acceptable before establishing a final will.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Is a Self Made Will Legal if Notarized?

A self-made will is legal if it meets your state's requirements for wills. All states have requirements that include ...

How Many Types of Legal Wills Exist?

Various types of legal wills can enable a testator -- or will maker -- to dispose of his property after his death. ...

Is a Handwritten Will Legal?

A handwritten or "holographic" will is a will written entirely in the handwriting of the testator, or the ...

Are Notarized Wills Legal?

In all 50 U.S. states, at least two witnesses are required to make a will valid, according to MedLawPlus. However, only ...

Browse by category