A last will and testament helps you to convey your wishes even after your demise. However, the court will only enforce your wishes if the will is valid. Below are some of the requirements of a valid will.
You Must Write the Will
In Wisconsin, your will must be in written form. The courts won’t accept other forms of media, such as video or audio recordings. If you can’t write, say, because you are sick or have a hand injury, you can dictate your will and have someone write it down. The process doesn’t matter — what matters is that the final product is in written form.
You Must Label the Will
You also need to identify your will as such. Something like ‘Last Will and Testament’ will help with the identification. This requirement helps to identify your last wishes and separate them from other documents you may have about your properties.
For example, a prospective beneficiary can’t use your diary or notebook as your will. Even if your diary contains your wishes to leave your stocks and shares to your favorite charity, the charity won’t automatically get the shares if you don’t include the provision in a properly-label will.
You Must Be Capable
You must also have the capacity to make your will. In practical terms, this requirement means that:
- You must be at least 18 years old since children don’t have the necessary mental maturity to meet legal requirements.
- You must be of a sound mind. Your will might not be valid if you have a mental health condition, such as Alzheimer’s disease, during the execution.
- You must be aware of what you are about to do and have a thorough knowledge of your estate.
This requirement ensures that your last will and testament contains your true wishes. For example, if some drugs you and ‘helps’ you to write a will, the court can allow others to challenge the will based on incapacity.
You Must Have Valid Witnesses
State law requires you to execute your will in the presence of at least two witnesses. The witnesses can later confirm that the document is your last will and testament. The capacity requirement that applies to testators also applies to witnesses. For example, a 17-year-old cannot witness a will execution.
You Must Sign the Will
You and your two witnesses must sign the will for it to be valid. If you can’t sign the will (say you lost your hands in an accident), then someone can sign it for you in your conscious presence. The two witnesses must sign the will within a reasonable time after you.
You Shouldn’t Be Coerced or Deceived
Since wills typically deal with money or assets with monetary values, they are often a target of fraud. As such, the absence of fraud is also a requirement for your last will and testament. Fraud comes in various forms — here are a few examples:
- A potential beneficiary conspires with a doctor to lie to you that you have a terminal illness
- A potential beneficiary forges your financial documents and changes the value of your assets
- Someone deceives you into signing a will without your knowledge
You also need to sign the will of your own willingness. For example, if someone threatens and forces you to sign a will, the court can invalidate it based on coercion.
Courts typically accept wills at their face values. The issue of fraud will only invalidate a will if someone challenges the will. Thus, it’s critical to get everything right from the beginning.
Ensure you execute a valid will so that your beneficiaries don’t suffer or fight with each after your demise. Let the Law Offices of Rick D. Steinberg help you write your last will and testament and get everything right. Contact us today so that we can help you plan your estate.