Elements of a Valid Will

Personal Finance August 18, 2008 Print Friendly and PDF
Image of a gavel, signifying order, and a scale, signifying justice

Factors that must be present in a valid will vary from state to state, so it is wise to check your own state’s requirements. Certain elements are often necessary:

  • Legal age: You must meet your state’s age requirements to make a will. Some states have exceptions for married minors and parents.
  • Sound mind: You must know that you are making a will, how much property you have, and the names of the descendents or relatives who should share in your estate.
  • Intention to transfer property: You must have a statement intentionally leaving some or all of your property to specific persons or entities.
  • Written: Your will must be written.
  • Properly signed: You must voluntarily sign your will, unless unusual circumstances such as illiteracy, illness, or accident prompt your lawyer to make alternative provisions.
  • Properly witnessed: In most states, the signing of a formal will must be witnessed by at least two adults who understand that they are witnessing, are competent to testify in court, and are not receiving anything through the will.
  • Properly executed: Your will must include a statement attesting that it is your will and a date and place of signing. It must be signed before witnesses in your presence and certify that all parties watched each other sign the document.





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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.