It is a good idea for all people who are older than 18 to write wills. A will can help your loved ones to know how you would like your estate to be handled after you die. If you are growing older or are caring for your elderly loved one, the professionals at Elder Care Direction can help you to understand the importance of writing a will. While the requirements can vary from state to state, some general requirements apply to wills in most states.
The legal age to write a will
In most states, you have to be 18 years old or older to write a legally valid will. There are some exceptions, however. In Georgia, 14-year-olds can write wills, and Louisiana allows 16-year-olds to write wills. Several states allow emancipated minors to create wills along with military service members who are younger than age 18. When a minor has earned or inherited a large amount of money, his or her parents can ask the court to allow the minor to write a will.
Your will must include a clear statement that you intend for the document to serve as your will. This means that you should include explicit language that indicates that the document is your will.
Capacity to create a will
To create a will, you must be competent. This means that you must be aware of what you are doing when you draft a will. You must also know what property you own and the person or people who you want to receive it. Some people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia may still be of sound mind at the time that they draft their wills. If you are concerned that someone might challenge your will, you might want to get a signed letter from your doctor stating that you are of sound mind.
Signing the will
A will is not valid unless it is signed by the testator. Your signature affirms that the document is your will and that you agree with its provisions. If you are unable to sign your will because of your physical condition, you can have a representative sign it for you in your presence. A will must be signed voluntarily and in the absence of duress, coercion, or fraud.
In addition to your signature, a will must have a minimum of two adult witnesses who also must sign the document. In Vermont, there must be three witnesses. The witnesses attest that they understand that the document is a will and that the testator appeared to be of a sound mind at the time it was signed.
Most states require the witnesses to be disinterested, which means that they do not stand to benefit. This helps to prevent the suggestion that the testator was coerced into writing and signing the will. In states that allow interested witnesses, there may be an extra safeguard that is required. In Massachusetts, an interested witness can sign the will only when two disinterested witnesses sign the document. It is best to only use disinterested witnesses, however.
The signatures do not have to be notarized. However, if the will contains a self-proving affidavit, a notary will be necessary.
Different types of wills
Most wills have to be typed, signed, and witnessed. However, there are some exceptions.
- Holographic wills are handwritten by the testator, signed, and dated. A holographic will does not require witnesses, but two disinterested witnesses may have to attest that the document is written in the testator’s handwriting. Holographic wills are accepted in approximately half of the states.
- Oral wills are only recognized in a few states under very limited circumstances. In general, an oral will is valid only when the testator created it when he or she was in imminent danger of dying. An oral will must also be made in front of two witnesses.
- A video will is a type of oral will and is only binding in states that allow oral wills. However, a video will can help to demonstrate that you were of sound mind at the time that you created a written will.
What happens when a will is found to be invalid?
If your will is determined to be invalid, the court may look for an earlier will that does meet the requirements. If an earlier will is found, it will likely be followed. If there isn’t an earlier will, your assets will be passed to your heirs under the intestacy laws of your state.
If your will is invalidated, your final wishes will not be followed. It may also harm the beneficiaries that you want to receive your assets.
Get help from Elder Care Direction
If you want to create a will, Elder Care Direction can help you to understand the different requirements. We can also refer you to one of our trusted partner attorneys for further legal assistance. Contact us today by filling out our online contact form.