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Wills 101

What Makes A Will Valid?

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To be valid, Wills must follow the law of the state in which you reside.

Generally, a Will must include the following:

  • The person who writes the will must be legally able to do so. This generally means that the person:
    • Must be at least 18 years old.
    • Must be of sound mind which generally means that you understand the nature and extent of your assets.
    • Must not be under the influence of anyone who dictates what goes into the Will.
  • The Will must be legible. Generally Wills are typewritten or computer generated, but they may be handwritten. In some states they can even be totally handwritten. These Wills are known as "holographic" Wills. We recommend against the use of holographic Wills. Even if your state is one of the few that allows them, you will not be here to make corrections if you make a mistake that could make your Will void.
  • Your signature and the date you signed.
  • The signature of at least two people who are not named as beneficiaries in the Will who witness your execution of the Will. Three witnesses are required in Vermont.
  • Notarization of your Will is not legally required. However, in many states if your witnesses sign a sworn statement before a notary public at the time the Will is executed, it will be easier to prove the validity of the Will after you die. See How To Protect Your Will Against Challenges.
  • For requirements in your state, see the document in "To Learn More."
  • A Will does NOT have to be filed with a court or government agency while you are alive. See Storing Your Will.

A Will is determined to be valid through a judicial process known as Probate.

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