When formulating an estate plan in Virginia, people are well-advised to ensure that it complies with the law. For those writing a will, it is particularly important. This is key to it being completed as the testator wants and that their objectives laid out in the document are met.
However, there are times when people either make mistakes, do not strictly adhere to the fundamental requirements for writing the will itself or make additions to their will. Although it might stoke a dispute, the law accounts for this when the document is intended as a will.
While people should follow the law to prevent confusion, it is also wise to understand how writings intended as wills can be considered valid.
Key points regarding writings intended as wills
Virginia has certain requirements for a will to be legally executed.
It must be in writing and signed by the testator or another person at the testator’s direction. If it is handwritten, it must be in the testator’s handwriting and signed while two witnesses with no stake in the will are present.
If it is not in their handwriting, it will not be valid unless it has the testator’s signature or is acknowledged by the testator with two witnesses present who subscribe to it while there.
If these rules are not complied with, it must be shown that the person intended to have the document serve as the will; should be a partial or full revocation of the will; be an intended addition or change to the will; or a partial or complete revival of a will that had been revoked in full or in part.
This does not eliminate the need for a signature unless there was a mistake where people signed the wrong document.
To avoid confusion, having help with estate planning documents is imperative
When people write a will, they are doing so to protect themselves, their loved ones and anyone else who they believe should be entitled to their property.
It is preferable to have a document that follows the law for valid execution, but there are times when that is difficult or impossible.
To address circumstances where there is debate over whether a document that might or might not have been intended as a will is legitimate or to update a will by executing it according to the law to prevent these types of problems, it is vital to have professional assistance.