Get Legal Help Today
Secured with SHA-256 Encryption
UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.
We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.
A deathbed will is one created and executed when the testator (the person writing the will) is facing imminent death. Despite being hastily drawn, this type of will may be as valid and binding as a one prepared in advance, but relying on a deathbed will to distribute assets can be risky. Another version of a deathbed will might be called a holographic will.
A will prepared close to death is apt to be challenged by a disappointed beneficiary. Such challenges usually contend that the testator lacked sufficient mental capacity or was subjected to undue influence. This type of challenge can lead to a costly and protracted will contest.
In addition, wills prepared hurriedly are often prone to errors for several reasons:
- The quickly drawn will may fail to distribute the property as the testator intended;
- Hasty preparation may overlook, and miss strategies to minimize or eliminate the federal estate tax; and
- The will may be judged invalid because it does not meet a certain legal requirement, such as the signatures of two (or, in some states, three) witnesses who are not related to the testator and do not benefit under the will.
Deathbed wills can also be spoken instead of written, wherein orally-communicated instructions are given regarding the testator’s wishes, in the presence of witnesses. Keep in mind, however, that not all states accept these types of wills as valid, instead requiring a written will with witness signatures. Some states may also have restrictions as to what can be orally communicated in a will, such as dollar amounts of transferring properties or assets; this is because numbers can be misheard and there is the risk of mistakes in what numbers are spoken of, whereas a written number is harder to dispute.
While a deathbed will is better than no will at all, to avoid errors or potential challenges, create and execute a will while still of sound mind and body. Your family will appreciate your advance planning.