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Writing or adding to a will and how it impacts validity

In Virginia, estate planning is a fundamental aspect of being fully prepared for the future. Having a will details how a person’s property will be distributed and serves other important needs. However, a will might need to be updated from the time it is written and legally executed. That may be due to life changes like getting married, having a child, getting a divorce, accumulating more assets and for other reasons. When creating a will by creating a document or changing a will by adding to a document in written form, there can be confusion regarding its validity if it is not executed. Understanding this potentially challenging issue is imperative to avoid acrimonious disagreements.

What does the law say about writings intended as wills?

There are basic rules when executing a will. It must be signed by the person (the testator) or by another person in the testator’s presence who is doing so as directed. If it is handwritten, it must be in the testator’s handwriting and signed with two witnesses who have no stake in the document or its provisions. If it is handwritten, it will not be valid without a signature or without being acknowledged as valid with two witnesses present at the time.

Even if a person writes a document or adds to a document intending for it to be a will and does not execute it according to the law, it can still be treated as if it was executed. For this to be the case, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the intention was for the document to serve as the will; it must partially or completely revoke a will; it must add to or change a will; or it must serve as a partial or complete revival of a will that had previously been revoked. It is obviously preferable to execute a will, but that is not always possible. Knowing what the law says in this situation is key.

For help with crafting a legal will, it is wise to have guidance

A will can be the most rudimentary type of document in an estate plan. Still, that does not mean it will be free of complexities and potential areas of dispute. When writing a document that is intended to be a will or making changes to an existing document, knowing whether it is legal or not depends on the situation. For help with this or any other area of estate planning, having experienced support can be beneficial to avoid challenges and claims of invalidity.