Having a valid will is typically an important part of having a comprehensive and thorough estate plan. What makes a will valid, and understanding the components of a valid will, is important for estate planners to be familiar with. The best way for estate planners to ensure that they have a valid will is to be familiar with the components of a valid will and how to comply with those requirements.
Testamentary and legal capacity
Testamentary capacity requires that the estate planner is of sound mind when executing their will. Sound mind requires that they have testamentary capacity including that the estate planner must understand that they are making a will and the impact of the will; understands the nature and extent of their estate; and understands that they are using the will to dispose of their property and assets. Legal capacity requires that the estate planner be of legal age to execute a will which usually is 18 years or older.
Intent and voluntariness
The estate planner must have the intent to execute a will and dispose of their property and assets using the will. In addition, the estate planner must execute their will voluntarily which requires that there is no coercion, undue influence or duress in the formation and execution of their will for it to be valid.
Witness and signature requirements
The estate planner’s will must meet witness and signature requirements in the jurisdiction where it is being executed. These requirements vary by state but generally require the estate planner to sign the will in the presence of two disinterested witnesses and for those witnesses to sign the will as well.