Advice for Properly Structuring Last Will and Testament Documents with Clients
Assisting a client with a last will and testament can be a daunting undertaking. Using a last will and testament template can make the process easier.Download Template
There are a few states which have authorized e-wills and if you live in one of those states, you will want to make sure you understand the proper structure of a last will and testament. Unless you are an estate planning attorney by trade, most of us do not have access to the proper language for structuring these legal documents. This is when a last will and testament template can come in handy.
Here’s What You Will Find:
- Proper Structure of Last Wills and Testaments
- Witness Requirement
- States Which Allow eWills
- Additional Helpful Resources
Proper Structure of Last Wills and Testaments
Preparing a will is something nearly every person will do at some point in their lives. Undertaking the task of assisting a client with this solemn responsibility must be taken seriously. In most cases, a last will and testament template will suffice provided you make sure the proper legal requirements are met. Some of the clauses which need to be addressed include:
- Name of the maker
- Date of the will
- Revocation of prior wills and codicils
- Makers marital status
- Name of children when applicable
- Assignment of specific gifts to beneficiaries
- Direction to Executor to pay estate taxes
- Name and information of Executor of Estate
- Direction and powers of Executor
- Any specific discretion allowable by Executor
- Instructions for Successor Executor
- Business ownership clauses (if maker has business interests)
- Miscellaneous provisions as needed
- Description of any terms used in Will
- Witness names, addresses, and signatures
- Witness attestation
- Signature and date of maker
Witness Requirements for Last Wills and Testaments
Generally speaking there are signature and statement requirements which must be met in order to ensure a law will and testament is valid. The maker of the will (known as the testator) must do the following:
- Sign the document
- Have the capacity to sign the document
- State the document was signed free of duress and undue influence
- State the document was signed with intent (e.g. not in error)
- State the document was signed free of fraud
- Have witnesses who will attest to the makers state of mind at time of signing
Keep in mind, most states require two witnesses sign a last will and testament. The other requirement is the witnesses may not be a beneficiary to the will.
States Which Allow eWills
As of October 2021, Nevada, Indiana, Arizona, and Florida have passed laws authorizing e-wills. Thanks to the Electronic Wills Act and Revised Law on Notarial Acts, more states are likely to adopt these changes going forward.
Even in those states which do not allow eWills, some do allow witnesses to attest through an affidavit they witnessed the makers signature via video conference. Make sure before you use a last will and testament template for your client you clarify the rules in your state.
Additional Helpful Resources:
- Electronic Wills Act
- Electronic Wills: Ready or Not, Here They Come
- Will Electronic Wills Be the New Normal?
- Law on Notarial Acts, Revised
- Statutory Requirements for a Valid Written Will
Gathering Signatures for Last Will and Testaments
Once a last will and testament template has been properly customized to meet the needs of your client, there are signatures which must be gathered. After checking state regulations, you can use Nitro to collect the required signatures, even if the witnesses and maker are in different locations! Finish customizing the last will and testament with the printed names of the maker and each witness. Send along the finalized document to your client. The eSigning removes workflow barriers to having a fully executed and legal last will and testament. Start your free trial of Nitro today.