Table of Contents:
- Virginia Requirements for a Last Will and Testament
- Requirements for Last Will & Testaments in Georgia
- Requirements for a Last Will & Testament in Pennsylvania
Wills play an integral part to a Virginia resident's estate plan. They allow a testator, the person making the will, to direct how his property is divided at death, to appoint who serves as an executor to accomplish these instructions, to nominate a guardian for minor children and to establish a testamentary trust to direct how assets are to be used toward ongoing support of a beneficiary. By following the state laws on a last will and testament, a Virginia resident can take advantage of these opportunities and avoid dying intestate.
Requirements for All Wills
Under Section 64.2-401 of the Virginia code, any person of sound mind can make a will. This definition includes emancipated minors.
According to Section 64.2-403 of the Virginia Code, the will must be in writing. It must be signed by the testator, or the testator must direct someone else to sign his name to manifest his intention that the signature be his own. Virginia law does not recognize or accept noncupative, or oral, wills.
If the testator writes the will completely in his own handwriting, the will is considered valid without the need for witnesses to sign the will, according to Section 64.2-203(B) of the Virginia Code. However, two disinterested witnesses must prove that the signature is the testator's.
Unless the will is entirely in the testator's handwriting, the will must be witnessed. (See writing link). The testator must sign his will in the presence of two witnesses. Unlike the rules in some other states, Virginia law does permit interested witnesses - individuals who stand to inherit from the will - to witness the will. Witnesses may be called to court to testify about the execution of the will.
Although this is the legal requirement, Section 64.2-404 of the Virginia Code will allow a will to remain valid even if this requirement is not met if the person presenting the will shows by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document to be his will. However, in any event, the will must be signed by the person making the will.
Virginia law does not require a will to be notarized. However, if the will is notarized and accompanied by a self-proving affidavit, it is presumed to be properly executed. Furthermore, it is accepted by probate court and does not require live testimony from the witnesses.
You must be at least 14 to file a will in Georgia. The will must be in writing and signed by the author, must be written freely and voluntarily, and must be signed by the author and at least two witnesses. All three people must sign the will in view of each other.
Uses of a Will
Georgia residents can use wills to serve many purposes. Assets such as bank accounts, property, cars and stocks may be transferred in a way the will writer sees fit, the only exception to this is jointly-owned property. Georgia residents may also use a will to nominate a guardian for any children under 18, though the decision is ultimately up to the courts.
Georgia residents name an executor of the will when writing it. The executor is responsible for submitting the will to the local courthouse when the writer dies. A court date will be assigned when this happens. The executor will then contact all people receiving assets to notify them of the court date.
A probate hearing is then held before any assets are transferred. Probate is used to settle any outstanding debts. The remaining assets may then be distributed according to the directions in the will.
Wills help Pennsylvania residents dictate who gets their belongings when they die, appoint executors and name guardians for their children. However, the testator -- the person creating the will -- must strictly comply with Pennsylvania laws, or he risks having the will invalidated and his belongings passed through the state laws of intestacy, the rules that dictate how belongings are dispersed when a person does not have a will.
A person must be at least 18 and be of sound mind to make a valid will in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania does not accept noncupative, or verbal, wills. Instead, all wills must be in writing.
The testator must sign the will. If the testator signs his own name, Pennsylvania law does not require witnesses to the will.
The signature must appear at the end of the will. However, if there is any text after the testator's signature, this additional information will not invalidate the text that came before the signature.
The testator may elect to sign with a mark. However, if he does, there must be two witnesses. The witnesses must see the testator sign the will with the mark.
If the testator is not able to make a mark or sign his name, he can direct another person to do this for him. However, there must be two witnesses who observe this.
Proving the Will
When the will is submitted for probate, a witness must testify that the document that is being offered to the court is the testator's will. This may require a witness familiar with the testator's signature to swear under oath that the signature belongs to the testator.
Another way that witnesses can attest to the validity of the signature is by completing a self-proving affidavit. This legal document has the same power as their live testimony and may be prepared at the time the will was signed and witnessed or after the testator's death.
Revoking a Will
A person may create another will or codicil to revoke a previous will. Alternatively, he can create another document that states that it is his intent to revoke the previous will. The testator can also destroy, tear, burn or obliterate the will with the intent to revoke the will. Alternatively, the testator can direct another person to take this act against the will, but there must be two witnesses to the act.
Change in Circumstance
Some life changes cause a will to be automatically modified unless the will specifies otherwise. This includes if the testator is divorced or in the process of getting divorced at the time of death, so long as he has proven grounds for divorce. It also includes if the testator gets married after making a will, has a child or adopts a child. In these cases, the heir receives the share of the estate she would have been entitled to had the testator died without a will.