A will is an important cornerstone of most estate plans. Some estate plans may use a living trust in place of a will or along with a will which is why understanding the necessary components of a will is so essential.
The components of a valid will include:
- Legal capacity – legal capacity refers to the legal age in which the estate planner can legally make a will. Usually the legal age to make a will is 18.
- Testamentary capacity – testamentary capacity refers to several different components of what is required for a will to be valid. Testamentary capacity includes being of sound mind which requires that the estate planner knows they are making a will and the effect of the will; that the estate planner understands the nature and extent of their estate; and that the estate planner also understands that they are disposing of their property and assets through the will.
- Intent to voluntarily make a will – the estate planner must have intent to enter into a will and voluntarily do so. There cannot be any undue influence or duress in the formation of the will for it to be valid.
- Dispose of property – the will must properly dispose of the estate planner’s properly and assets according to their wishes.
- Signature and witness requirements – lastly, there are commonly signature and witness requirements for a will to be valid which can vary by state, making it essential for estate planners to understand the signature and witness requirements for a will to be valid where they live.
Wills can help provide for the estate planner’s family and loved ones and can give the estate planner and family members important peace of mind. Because a comprehensive estate plan is often built around a will, estate planners should be familiar with the requirements for a will to be valid.