So much of an estate planner’s plan for their estate and their loved ones commonly rests on a will, which is typically part of an overall comprehensive estate plan. For this reason, it is important for estate planners to understand what constitutes a valid will and to ensure that these requirements are met as part of the estate planning process.
The components of a valid will are:
- Testamentary age: The estate planner must be of legal age to enter into a will for it to be valid. The usual legal age to make a will is 18 years old.
- Testamentary capacity: The estate planner must have testamentary capacity to enter in a will for it to be valid. This commonly refers to the estate planner being of sound mind. To meet this requirement, the estate planner should know they are making a will and the effect of the will; understand the nature and extent of their estate; and understand that they are disposing of their property and assets using the will.
- Intent: The estate planner must intend to dispose of their property and assets using their will and intend to execute a will.
- Voluntary: The estate planner must execute their will voluntarily. If there is any duress, coercion or undue influence in the formation of execution of the will, it may make it possible to challenge its validity.
- Properly dispose of property: The estate planner’s will should dispose of all their property and assets to beneficiaries named in their will according to the estate planner’s wishes.
- Signature and witness requirements: There are important signature and witness requirements associated with a will. These requirements can vary by state so the estate planner should ensure they are in compliance with the rules where they are executing their will. Commonly, there is a requirement that the will be signed by the estate planner before two disinterested witnesses.
Estate planning includes many important pieces to it. For this reason, estate planners should be familiar with estate planning tools and how to ensure they are valid so they can create an estate plan that works and that is best for them.