What constitutes a valid will?

A person who writes a will is called the “testator.” The will must be signed by the testator and, most importantly, must evidence the testator’s intention to make a gift effective at death. This intention is referred to as “testamentary intent” and is an absolute prerequisite to a valid will.

If any part of the will is not in the testator’s handwriting, it must be witnessed by two individuals who stand nothing to gain from the will. Those witnesses must sign the will in the testator’s presence. If, however, it is completely in the handwriting of the testator, no witnesses are required.

If the testator lacks the mental ability to remember what she owns and to whom she wants to leave her property, then the testator lacks the legal capacity to make a will. When that nephew claims to have magically induced Aunt Bertha out of her coma just long enough to sign a new will, everyone in the family soon becomes an expert on “testamentary capacity.”