Making a will is one of the most important and valuable tasks you can perform for your family. A will is a simple and basic part of estate planning that allows you to make sure that your family is sufficiently cared for and provided for when you die. Though you cannot leave everything through a will, a large amount of information can be provided in this document.
Generally, you should make a will as soon as you have significant assets or have children, whichever comes first. The will can be as simple or complex as you like, but it helps ensure that your assets will be handled by the person of your choosing and distributed according to your terms, rather than leaving this process up to a beneficiary assigned by probate court.
If you are making your will or have made one already, it is important to be fully aware of the actions and events that can make your will null and void. Whether you wish to create a new will or simply want to avoid inadvertently leaving your items to the wrong people, it is important to know these voiding properties so you can use or avoid them as you see fit.
What Can Void a Will?
A will may be declared void in the following circumstances:
- Your Will Is Holographic. A holographic will may sound futuristic, but creating one is very simple because you can do it on your own and make it official without any witnesses. Usually, a will must be notarized properly to ensure that it can be carried out. If you are concerned about this (and it is reasonable to be concerned), it is best to write your will with the help of an experienced estate attorney.
- Your Will Does Not Follow State Guidelines. Each state has different guidelines surrounding how a will must be created. These laws are in place to protect citizens from a myriad of will-related fraud and coercion issues. They also ensure that probate court and executors have the proper information to carry out your wishes. You must be sure that you are following both state and national guidelines when you create your will. Again, the best way to do this is to create the document with an experienced estate attorney.
- You Are Not of Sound Mind. There are some basic requirements you must meet before you can reasonably create your will. Being of sound mind is a general umbrella term for these requirements. Specifically, you must be able to comprehend:
- The property you own
- The identity of your loved ones
- Your relationship with the beneficiaries in your will
- What the will says
- What the terms of the will mean
Unfortunately, some degenerative cognitive diseases prevent a person from comprehending this information. Individuals with dementia often fall under this category and therefore cannot write a legally valid will.
The best things you can do are to create a will early and to keep the document up to date every time major assets or relationships change. This way, if a degenerative disease takes hold, you will have a will that the attorneys can use to help make decisions about your estate. If you don’t already have a will and are diagnosed with a significant neurological disease or disorder, create a will as soon as possible.
- Your Will Is Outdated. It is understandable for wills to change throughout your lifetime. Your assets will likely grow and change, and your family may grow and change, as well. When you create a new will, be sure to physically destroy any copies of old wills once the new will is completed. This helps ensure that the executor of your estate can find and follow the correct will, rather than using an outdated version that no longer accurately reflects your interests. If you do not destroy old wills and more than one is found, your beneficiaries will likely have to spend a significant amount of time in court and may not receive their inheritances.
- You Do Not Have the Proper Witnesses. It is important to remember that you must have a proper witness, not just any witness. This often means one or two (depending on the state) individuals over 18 who can:
- Watch you sign the will
- Recognize that you are of sound mind
An attorney’s office is a great place for this. Many times, your attorney and one of their colleagues can serve as witnesses for your will.
- Your Will Is Coerced. If you create your will under coercion, the court may consider the will to be fraudulent. Coercion is extremely serious but doesn’t always mean forced. Legal coercion can happen in a few ways, such as:
- A person forces you to put them in your will
- A person asks you to sign the will under the guise of a different document
- A person forces you to sign a will that they created
Though we may sound like a broken record, an attorney is the best person to help you avoid this. Your attorney can make sure the document is strong and able to hold up in court. The better your relationship with this attorney, the more help they can offer in creating a document that no one can contest. This means other family members cannot demand an inheritance, nor can your loved ones argue that you were not of sound mind. Estate attorneys are experts at ensuring that wills are accurate, complete, and legally binding.
Trust Your Attorney
When looking for an estate attorney, it is important to find someone you trust. They should be:
- Board-certified by the American Bar Association
- Experienced in estate planning
- Knowledgeable about state laws regarding estate plans and wills
- Patient, compassionate, and dedicated to serving their clients
- Available to answer questions fully and transparently
- Respected in their community
These traits help to create a trustworthy attorney on whom you can rely for this important task.
Contact Huber Fox, P.C.
At Huber Fox, P.C., we have decades of experience with creating wills. We understand the complex details of estate planning laws and can help you create an ironclad document according to your exact specifications. Because we have experience in all areas of estate planning, you can expect comprehensive representation and expert guidance throughout the entire process. If you would like advice on estate planning, we are happy to help you develop an estate plan that maximizes your assets and keeps your money in the family.
For more information about our services or to schedule a consultation with Huber Fox, P.C., please contact us online today.