Not All Wills Are Created Equal: Here's Why

Each state has its own laws regarding what makes a will legally valid, and if yours does not meet these standards, it may not stand up in probate court. Different ways exist to create wills, but not all of these methods are created equal. It is important to understand these what is needed to make your will legally valid. If you want to make sure your final wishes are carried out, take the time to decide which type of will is best for you. 

Handwritten Wills

Before creating a handwritten will, you must find out if the this type of will is legal in your state. About half of the states in the U.S. do recognize a handwritten will as legal, even without witnesses. However, each state may have its own individual requirements, such as the will must be entirely handwritten or must include the date it was written to be valid. 

Fill-In-The-Blank Wills

If you don't have a large estate, your estate planning goals are likely extremely simple. If so, a fill-in-the-blank will might be right for you. However, before getting started, make sure the will meets your state's legal requirements for a valid document. 

These wills can be made using pre-printed forms that you fill in by hand, or created using special computer software. 

Oral Wills

Some states may accept an oral will in place of a written will under certain circumstances. If you are near death and have never made a will, your state may accept an oral one rather than a written one. However, depending on state requirements, there may limits on the dollar amount of that you can transfer or that your spoken words be put into written form within a certain period of time. 

Video Wills 

A video will might be something that interests you, but it cannot take the place of your written will. It can, however, supplement a legal written will. By videotaping yourself reading your will, it can prove that you were of sound mind at the time your will was created and make it extremely difficult for any beneficiaries to contest the will in court. 

Before you begin making out your will, you can discuss the different types with an elder law attorney (such as James M Snow) who specializes in legalities surrounding older individuals. The lawyer can help you create a valid will that meets all requirements for your state. In most cases, a typed or word-processed will is your safest choice, unless you have extenuating circumstances.