Signing a Will

Following all the necessary rules required by your state creates a valid will and testament.   The signing process is the last step to making a legal will.  Following the steps below will help ensure that your will is properly signed and is legally valid.

Have witnesses sign

A will should be signed and dated by the testator and witnessed by at least two witnesses who are over the age of 18 years old.  The majority of states require that your witnesses first watch you sign your will together before they themselves sign.  Some states permit witnesses to sign at a later time, providing that you inform them that it is your signature on the valid will.   However, it is better to do all the signatures together in order to avoid any possible legal challenges.  Most states also require that all witnesses not be named as an heir in the will.  Also, if a lawyer has drafted your will, he or she may not be used as a witness.

In approximately half of states allow handwritten wills, known as a “holographic” will.  Provided that a testator handwrites the entire will, signs and dates it, then the holographic will is legal, regardless of there being witnesses present.   However, keep in mind that a holographic will is the easiest will to challenge, due to no witnesses.  Therefore, it is best to avoid creating a holographic will.

Have your witnesses sign a self-proving affidavit

Although there is no legal requirement that a notary must sign your will, it is best to have your witnesses sign a “self-proving” affidavit.  This affidavit, which is a statement sworn by your witnesses in front of a notary, relieves a witness from having to go to probate court and swear to the validity of your will.

Notify your executor or executrix

Because it is not required for you to file your will with the court, it is important that you tell either your executor or the person you have chosen to carry out the will where you have stored the document.  Many people choose to store their will in a secure location like a safety deposit box.

Residence requirement

Provided you have produced a legally valid will consistent with the laws of the state you live in, when you pass away the will is valid in the state in which you die.  If you move to another state, make sure to review the new state’s laws regarding valid wills and marital property.   More likely than not your will still will be valid, but if the new state in which you reside has different requirements, you will want to consider revising your will to conform to those requirements.

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