A will attorney deals with various concerns with wills and estate documents. Wills are legal papers that specify how a person’s property should be distributed after they die. As a result, wills are a crucial part of estate planning. The will may refer to specific items of property, or it may refer to all the person’s belongings, financial assets, properties, and non-tangible interests.
Wills must meet specific requirements to be legally enforceable. As a result, one of the primary functions of will attorneys is to analyze a will document to ensure that it meets that state’s legal requirements. Will lawyers also handle will disputes and other related matters such as trust documents.
What Constitutes a Valid Will?
A valid will must meet several legal conditions. Self-proving wills are the most prevalent sort of will that people make.
A self-proving will is one that has been signed in line with the formalities needed by the state in which it was made.
The formalities necessary to create a valid will document vary by state. In New York, for example, the following criteria must be met for a will to be valid:
- Age: The testator (the person who is making the will) must be 18 years of age or older.
- Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind when they sign their will.
- Intention: The testator must have the present intent to form the will at the time they create the will. The person making the will must sign and date it, or they can direct another person to do so for them.
- Signature at the end of the will: The signature must be located at the end of the will. Often, material that appears after the signature line won’t be considered valid, because it is harder to prove that the testator wanted that to be part of the will.
- Witnesses: In the presence of two witnesses, the testator must proclaim that the will is theirs and sign it, or they can inform the witnesses that they signed the will and present it to the witnesses later. The testator does not have to sign and present the will to both witnesses at the same time. In some states, the witnesses must sign the will while the testator is present.
- 30-day period: The two witnesses must sign the will within 30 days of the creation of the will. When the first witness signs the will, the 30-day term begins.
A holographic will is another kind of will that an individual can make. This sort of will is written by the testator alone, away from any witnesses. A holographic will signed and dated by the testator is acceptable in some states.
However, not every state recognizes holographic wills. Because of this, , an individual should check their local regulations before creating a holographic will to divide their property. Most states that recognize these sorts of wills require two or more witnesses to testify in court that the will is, in fact, in the testator’s handwriting.
An oral will is a third type of will a person can make. Someone creates an oral will by verbally describing the terms of their will to another person.
That said, many states are wary about these types of wills and may not consider them to be binding. However, there are certain exceptions. Some state courts, for example, will recognize an oral will made by a member of the military while they are overseas as valid.
What Information Should Be Included in a Will?
There are various things that people should put in their wills. To be properly executed, the will should include at least one section stating:
- The appointment of a guardian for any minor children, if applicable;
- Who is to receive what or how much of the person’s estate;
- What should be done with property that the will does not specifically distribute to someone; and
- The appointment of an executor. An executor is responsible for carrying out the instructions in the will, such as distributing property or performing other tasks.
What Are Contested Wills?
A contested will is one that has disputed words or provisions. Will contests or disputes typically arise when a beneficiary (or alleged beneficiary) disagrees with a will provision. A beneficiary is someone who the will identifies as someone who is to receive something from the testator.
For example, a will contest could occur over:
- Whether a specific property item should be assigned to a specific individual;
- The amount of money distributed in the will;
- The sequence of will distributions; and
- A property item’s classification.
Contested wills almost always require legal action to settle.
What Are Some Examples of Common Will Disputes?
Will contests frequently entail disagreements among beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are typically the deceased person’s relatives, children, surviving spouse, and close friends.
Some examples of common will disputes are:
- Conflicts over familial heirlooms;
- Family land or property disputes;
- Conflicts over oral wills; and
- Disagreements about will revisions or second wills
A will attorney will usually go over the current will documents to try to figure out what the deceased individual wanted. If this is difficult, the court may occasionally ask the attorney to gather and analyze further evidence about the will and the estate (such as receipts, previous gifts, etc.)
How Do You Challenge a Will?
A will is a legal document that a person can write to specify how they want to distribute their property, and to whom, when they die. To contest a will, both the party contesting the will and the reason for contesting the will must meet the required legal conditions in order to be heard in court.
If both the reason and the party meet the legal requirements, the party can file a case with the probate court. It is critical to file as soon as a disagreement emerges. This is because every state has a time limit (i.e., a statute of limitations) that bans lawsuits over the will once this period has passed.
Contesting a will is frequently a difficult process. If there is not enough evidence to indicate that there is a valid basis for contesting the will, the court will most likely uphold the deceased’s original wishes. Also, it is difficult to dispute the terms of a will when the person who wrote it is no longer alive.
Finally, while a person can file a claim without the assistance of an attorney, it is generally recommended that they have the help of an attorney because of the complexities of probate rules and the nature of such cases.
Can You Challenge a Will Before It Is Executed?
In most cases, it is not possible to contest a will before the will is executed. This is because wills are intended to take effect after the testator’s death, and the will is currently only future instructions that cannot be carried out until the testator’s death.
Also, if there appears to be a problem that could lead to a dispute, the testator has the option to change the provisions of their will during their lifetime.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Handle Will Issues?
Wills are frequently the source of a wide range of legal conflicts. If you need assistance with any legal difficulties, you may need to consult a knowledgeable will lawyer.
Your lawyer can assist you in reviewing documents to understand the rights of all parties involved. If you need assistance preparing or evaluating your own will, you may need to consult an expert wills attorney near you.