What are the requirements for a valid will in Virginia?
Every state makes its own rules for what is required in order to execute a valid will. Although the rules in Virginia are not unique or especially complicated, it is important to know what the law is and to follow it carefully. A will which is not drafted properly can be challenged and may not be given effect in probate court. Your will sets out your wishes regarding who will care for your children, who will administer your estate, and how all the property you worked so hard to attain will be distributed after you are gone. The last thing you want is for some technical error to cause the whole will to be thrown out, substituting the generic laws of intestacy in place of your deeply personal and well-thought out desires.
The requirements for a valid will can be found in Virginia’s statute of wills, Chapter 4 of Title 64.2 of the Code of Virginia. Under this law, a will may be created by any adult person who is mentally competent to draft a will. This level of competency basically means that the person understands he or she is making a will and has a knowledge of the property he or she owns. The will must be in writing (a typed document constitutes a writing) and signed by the person who is making the will (the testator). The will should also be signed in the presence of the testator by two competent witnesses who witnessed the testator’s signature. If possible, it is best to have the will notarized by a notary who witnesses the signatures. This practice removes the need to call the witnesses into probate court to testify that they witnessed the will.
One type of will that does not need to be witnessed is a holographic will. A holographic will is one which is entirely handwritten in the testator’s handwriting and is signed and dated by the testator. Not all states recognize holographic wills, but they are accepted in Virginia.
Following these few simple requirements will help ensure that your will is accepted by the probate court and given its full effect after you have passed on. Having an attorney draft your will and guide you through the execution process will help ensure that all legal requirements are met and that the will does what you intend it to do. Legal advice and assistance is also strongly recommended anytime you wish to change your will or create a new will to replace the old one. In Glen Allen and surrounding communities throughout central and southwest Virginia, call on Farmer Legal for help, our number is (804) 325-1441.