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What are the requirements for a valid will?

To be valid, a Will must be executed by a person of sound mind, who is either above the age of eighteen (18) years, or who is younger but a member of the Armed Services or the Merchant Marine. The writing must indicate a present testamentary intent: a writing indicating an intent to make a will in the future is of no legal significance. The testator (the person signing the will) must intend to make a will, free from fraud, undue influence or latent mistake, and intend the document to take effect only after death. The testator must have sufficient mental capacity to know the following:

*        the extent and value of his property;

*        the persons who are the natural objects of his bounty;

*        the facts necessary to direct the making of a will; and,

*        the nature of the act he is about to perform.

            The presumption is that the testator is sane. However, if a condition of unsoundness (such as dementia or Alzheimer’s) is documented at a time prior to the making of the will, it is presumed to continue. Since the lack of mental capacity voids the entire will, it is our duty, as attorneys to determine if each client we are interviewing has the requisite mental capacity to execute a valid will.

            There are also requirements for the preparation and signing of a will. Therefore, when we undertake your estate planning, we verify that our clients are competent; that their wishes are documented; and, that the will is properly prepared and signed.