Is Your Will Legally Binding?
It’s true that you don’t need a lawyer to make a legal will, but there are some technical elements you must have in place to make your will legally binding.
The last thing you want is to wrap up your estate planning only to have your family find after your passing that you missed a critical step and your will is not valid. Today we’re going to cover what you need in your will to prevent that from happening.
- Clearly identify who you are and that the document in question is intended to be your will
- Sign and date your will
- Have two witnesses watch you sign your completed will
- Have the same two witnesses sign your will
- Get your will notarized
Clearly Identify Who You Are and Declare the Document as Your Will
Step one is to make sure there’s no doubt that the will belongs to you and you’re intending for it to be your last will and testament. To do this, you’ll need to use your full name and list your city and state of residence. Most wills also include language that declares the document in question as the “last will”, meaning it’s your final say.
Sign and Date Your Will
It’s very important that you not only sign your will, but also remember to date it. Especially if you are creating a new will to replace an old one. You’ll want to make sure the date is alongside your signature so anyone looking over your documents can tell that the will is, in fact, the most recent version and; therefore, your last will.
Have Two Witnesses Watch You Sign Your Will & Sign It as Witnesses
Make sure – before you sign your will – you have two people to witness the signature and that they are the same two people who will sign your will as legal witnesses.
There is one important element to choosing witnesses that you’ll need to remember…
In most states the witnesses that sign your will need to be people who are not listed in your will as beneficiaries. If this is the case in your state, make sure you recruit some friends or other neutral parties to be your witnesses.
Get Your Will Notarized
Lastly, not every state requires that a will be notarized to be legally binding. However, even if it’s not a requirement in your state, it is often worthwhile. That’s because having your will and signatures notarized can help the court to authenticate and validate your will when the time comes to use it.
Once your will includes these elements, it is legally binding.
If you have any doubts, or need a little more assurance as you complete your estate planning, don’t hesitate to contact an estate attorney. You may not need them to draft the will for you, but they can help you craft a complete estate plan and make sure that your final wishes and estate is set to follow your ideal plan when you pass.