A Will is a document that disposes of an individual’s property and other owned interests at the individual’s death. If a valid will is not found, the decedent is said to have died intestate. For a will to be valid, it must conform to the specific legal requirements of the state or country in which it is created. Some states or countries require an attestation clause to validate a will. The attestation clause normally states that the will was validly executed according to the state’s statutory execution requirements and has been validly witnessed.
Holographic. A holographic will is a will written entirely by the testator in his or her own handwriting, is not witnessed, and is signed by the testator.
Nuncupative. A nuncupative will is a verbal will that must have two witnesses, can only deal with the distribution of personal property, and is considered a “deathbed” will, meaning that it is a safety net for people struck with a terminal illness and robbed of the ability or time to draft a proper written will.
Joint. A joint will is a single document typically executed by a husband and wife. Although it is a single document, the joint will has a separate distribution pattern of property by each testator.
Mutual Will. A mutual will is when two or more parties agree to have their property distributed in a particular fashion following the first death. The survivor is constrained in the ability to dispose of the property by the agreement made with the deceased.
Wills can be amended or revoked at any time. Minor changes can be made by writing a codicil. To revoke an existing will, a new will must state that it is intended to revoke the former document. A will can be revoked if it is intentionally destroyed by shredding or tearing. Divorce may or may not revoke a will.
In some cases, wills can be contested. Will contests are usually initiated by a disenchanted beneficiary or disinherited beneficiary who seeks a greater portion of the decedent’s estate. Arguments for invalidating the will must be presented to a court of law. If there is a possibility of a will contest, some attorneys videotape the will execution. This is important when the testator (the person leaving the will) may have questionable capacity or have an unusual disposition request. A “no contest” clause can be added to the will. This may or may not work.