Wills are significantly important documents as you approach the end of life. Whether you are in good health or you are just getting older and want to be sure your final wishes are carried out, preparing a will is the best way to make that happen. By preparing a will, it allows you to make sure that your family is well taken care of, especially your children and grandchildren. In this blog we’ll discuss four of the broader questions about wills in Virginia, and if you need your will to be notarized.
What is a will, and who can prepare one?
A will is, quite simply, a piece of writing that is signed by the person issuing the will (known as a “testator”) indicating what they wish to have happen to their belongings after they die. These belongings can be personal items, large properties such as houses and cars, or liquid assets such as cash and cash equivalent assets. Different states have different laws explaining what makes a will valid. Anyone who is of sound mind and is at least eighteen years old can issue a will. There are, however, some factors, such as fraud or duress that may later invalidate the will altogether.
Does a will need witnesses and notarization?
Generally speaking, Virginia state law requires that two competent witnesses observe the signing of wills in Virginia. The witnesses must then sign the will as well, in sight of the testator. An exception does exist; the exception takes effect if the testator writes out their entire will by hand and signs and dates it in their own hand.
Getting a will notarized is not required by law, but is generally a good practice to undertake nonetheless. Most lawyers would recommend that you get your will notarized.
What is the procedure if I don’t have a will?
If you don’t have a will in place, state statutes will direct what happens to your possessions instead, no matter what your wishes may have been. Wills in Virginia operate like this: your spouse will receive the entirety of your estate. But if you have surviving children or grandchildren then they would divide a majority of your estate (two-thirds or so) while your spouse receives the other third.
Who should help me draft a will?
Anyone who is familiar with the law can help; however, a legal professional is highly advisable to rely on for advice about wills. What this means is you should depend on a practicing lawyer to supervise the process of creating, preparing, and then overseeing the execution of your will.
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