What counts as a Will?

Must a Will have been formally prepared by an attorney or are a deceased family member’s wishes written down by another family member, themselves, or someone else admissible?

Asked on November 8, 2013 under Estate Planning, New York


Anne Brady / Law Office of Anne Brady

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

What counts as a valid will varies from state to state, but in no event in any state is there a requirement that a will be prepared by an attorney.  In Arizona, the testator's signature on a typed will must be witnessed by two people who sign as witnesses.  If those witnesses' signatures are notarized, the will is "attested" and will sail through the courts more easily.  However, a person can also hand write a holographic will.  If the entire will is in the testator's handwriting, it need only be signed by the testator to be valid.  Video wills are not valid in Arizona.



Brook Miscoski / Hurr Law Office PC

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

In Texas, a "holographic" (handwritten) will is only a will that is handwritten and signed by the testator. That kind of will can be probated even without witnesses.

A will that was produced by anyone else needs to be executed, witnessed, and proved. The common way of doing this is to have the testator execute the will in presence of two witnesses, who also sign after being sworn by a notary, who signs and places the notary seal/stamp. Form language is used. An attorney is not necessary, but an attorney can help prevent careless errors or actions that have bad legal consequences. For instance, having the people who will inherit serve as the witnesses to the will is a terrible idea.

If a family member directs the disbursement of personal property during a final illness (so, imagine someone on his deathbed saying he wants certain people to have certain items), that evidence can be presented, but it's not the same as an attested will.



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