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What is required for a will to be valid?

A will is a cornerstone of any effective estate plan but many estate planners may wonder what the requirements of a valid will are. Because legal requirements for a will to be valid can vary by state, it is important for estate planners to know what the requirements are in their state and how to fulfill those requirements.

Ensuring that a will is valid can help prevent a will dispute down the road, ensure that property and assets are distributed according to the estate planner's wishes and can provide peace of mind for both the estate planner and their family. Because a valid will is a foundational component of an overall estate plan, estate planners should be familiar with the different requirements for a will to be valid which includes several important requirements.

For a will to be validly executed, the testator must be of legal age. In addition, the testator, or person making the will, must also have testamentary capacity which means that they are of sound mind at the time of making the will. Testamentary capacity is determined by looking at if the testator knows that they are making a will and understands the effect of the will; if the testator understands the nature and extent of their estate; and if the testator understand that they are disposing of their property and assets. The testator must also have testamentary intent and execute the will freely. Lastly, there are important witness and signature requirements which can vary by state so it is important to know what those are.

A validly executed will ensure that the estate planner's estate is handled how they wish for it to be handled which cannot be underestimated in importance. Wills can help estate planners and their families during a difficult time which is why they are important to understand and to have.

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