More on Wills
As important as absolute privacy and personal control is in drafting a will, there are nevertheless several guidelines that must be followed in the U.S. in order for a will to be considered valid. While the specific guidelines might vary from state to state, some of the more universal regulations include:
- First and foremost is the establishment of the author, or “testator,” that his or her will is valid, often referred to as the publication. This claim is typically satisfied by including the phrase “last will and testament” somewhere on the face of the document.
- The author must make it clear that all other previously-written wills are invalid; a fact that will be considered already implied if the new will totally contradicts a prior one.
- The will must be signed and dated in the presence of two “disinterested parties” – people who do not stand to benefit from the will – and the testator should make it clear that he or she has the capacity to dispose freely of his or her property. Also important to keep in mind here is the fact that any text coming after the author’s signature may be considered invalid and ignored altogether.
Legally Aid Versus “Homemade” Wills
No laws exist that exclusively prohibits private citizens from drafting their own wills. However, creating these documents is a complicated process and one prone to mistakes for those not totally informed. For example, the testator of a home-written will may cite a spouse as both witness and beneficiary, in which case he or she is legally disinherited of any property allotted in the document.
What exactly constitutes a legally valid will or modifications to it varies widely, with some states accepting handwritten and even orally-transmitted wills. However, in virtually all cases, the law renders anything in the will calling for an illegal or immoral act invalid. Finally, it is important to grant the power to pay taxes and debts with inherited funds.
Wills are incredibly significant documents and drafting one should not to be taken lightly. For more information on will regulations and procedures, or for help drafting your will, contact the Austin wills and probate attorneys of KennonLegal Ltd. LLP at 512-931-3726.