What Is A Last Will & Testament?

A last will and testament form is the last written testament given by the deceased person telling their survivors what to do with their estate.

A will is the last written testament given by the deceased person telling their survivors what to do with their estate. In most states for a will to be valid it must follow strict guidelines as to, signing, witnessing and notarizing. The requirements vary from state to state.

You may make a will if you are "of legal age and sound mind". All states consider age 18 to be legal age. To determine if the person has a sound mind the law uses these guidelines: the person must understand; the nature of his property (not the minute details of it), the people who he would normally leave the property to, and the manner in which he is leaving it. A person does not need to be very smart to understand these things, or be in perfect mental health. The only people who could not write a will under these circumstances are those that are moderately to severely mentally handicapped or

mentally deranged.

The simplest form of a will is a Holographic Will and is valid in only a few states. This type of will does not need any witnesses, but must be completely handwritten by the testator along with their signature and the date. Sometimes a simple handwritten letter written to another family member will count as a holographic will if the deceased had signed and dated it. Most states don't allow these kind of wills, however, so it is important to know what the state where you live, or more importantly, the state you will die in, requires for a will to be valid.

A will won't be accepted as valid unless it meets all requirements. All wills must be in writing. Photographs or video tapes are not considered writing and are not valid as wills. Any language is valid. It must be written on a legible surface; paper, wood, gold, anything as long as it can be read and is a fairly permanent record is acceptable.

The will must contain the signature of the testator to be valid. It does not matter if the signature is not legible, or even spelled correctly. The important aspect of the signature is that the signer intended it to be their "mark" So, an X or a dot or even a line would be valid as long as the testator meant it as their signature. This is an important concept in the matter of wills, because a person who is illiterate or paralyzed may only be able to put a dot or an X. Normally the signature should be at the end of the will, but some states will allow it to be anywhere in the will.

Most states require that the signature of the testator be witnessed by at least two witnesses. There is no need for the witnesses to know what is inside the will, only that they know it is being signed by the testator. Some states require that the witnesses be adults, others do not. But all states require that the witnesses be competent enough to understand that they may need to testify or verify they saw or know of the will being signed by the testator. The witnesses should not be in the will as beneficiaries. Nor, should the witnesses be spouses of any of the beneficiaries. And, they should not be the spouse or children of the testator. The witnesses must sign that they saw the testator sign the will, or that the testator states, "This is my signature on my will". The same rules for signing that are applied to the testator also apply to the witness's signatures.

All of these signatures need to take place in the presence of each other. In other words, the witnesses need to see, or affirm, the testator's signature, and the testator must see, or affirm, the witness's signatures.

Many states provide for a "self-proving affidavit" to be included in the will. What this

does is make it unnecessary for the witnesses to go to court during probate to testify that the testator signed the will. To include a "self-proving affidavit" in the will a notary will need to be present at the time of signature to notarize the affidavit properly.

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