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.

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.


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.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

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.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Is a Handwritten Will Legal in Washington State?


Related articles

How to Write a Will for an Unborn Child

You can use a will to accomplish many purposes, including naming guardians for your children, leaving specific bequests to your loved ones and nominating someone to manage your estate until it can be distributed. Though it is typically wise to update your will as your circumstances change, you can include provisions for your unborn children as well as living family members.

How to Contest the Executor of a Will

An executor is a person who handles the financial affairs of an estate, including the distribution of assets to heirs, and is named in the will of a deceased person. Probate, the legal process used to sort out an estate, gives the executor authority to perform his duties. You, as an heir of the estate, have the right to contest an executor's appointment if you are concerned about his ability to perform his duties or if you believe the will naming him is invalid. A will may be invalid under your state's laws due to the mental incompetency of the deceased person at the time the will was made, fraud, or the will maker being pressured or coerced into signing the document.

Requirements for Last Will & Testaments in Georgia

Laws governing last wills and testaments vary from state to state. Georgia offers two ways of entering a will into probate: via a solemn form or common form. There are fewer requirements if your executor chooses the common form probate, and it still allows her time to oversee the details of all that you want done with your estate and to pay any financial claims against it.

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

Related articles

Holographic Wills in Colorado

Your will can name someone to manage your estate, dictate who should inherit your property and even nominate guardians ...

Illinois Laws on Wills

A valid will can nominate someone to manage your estate and detail how your property should be distributed when you ...

Is a Handwritten Last Will & Testament Legal in Florida?

A will is a document that has your last wishes and directions for distribution of your property to your loved ones ...

Last Will & Testament Language

The words and phrases you use when writing a will have specific legal meanings. Although the language can sound overly ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED