All too often, people are aware of the need to create an estate plan and the inherent value in doing so, yet fail to take the necessary action. For some, this inaction can be attributed to discomfort with addressing the always sensitive issue of their own mortality, while for others it can be attributed to the mistaken belief that the process of creating even a simple will prove to be beyond their understanding.
In recognition of this reality and in order to help foster a better understanding of how the estate planning process works, today's post will take a closer look at the requirements for executing a valid will here in Massachusetts.
Who can execute a simple will?
Under state law, anyone who is at least 18 years old and of sound mind is considered capable of executing a legally binding will.
Furthermore, a conservator, meaning a person vested with the authority to make decisions relating to the personal needs, medical treatment and/or property concerns of a minor or otherwise incapacitated person, may receive authorization from the court to execute a will.
What are the requirements for executing a simple will?
Massachusetts law dictates that a will must meet the following basic requirements:
- The will must be in writing
- The will must be signed by either the testator (i.e., the person executing the will), or in their name by some other person in his or her presence and at their direction.
- The will must be signed by two other people, both of whom witnessed the above-referenced signing.
Who can act as a witness?
Simply put, anyone who is generally competent to serve in a witness capacity may serve as a witness to a will.
Can a person serve as a witness to a will even if they have an interest in it?
Massachusetts law provides that the signing of a will by an interested witness will not have the effect of invalidating any provisions of the will or the entire will. However, it also provides that any gifts made to an interested witness or their spouse will be void unless there are at least two other non-interested witnesses to the will, or the interested witness can demonstrate that the neither the gift nor the signing was influenced by fraud or undue influence.
Here's hoping this information helped allay some of the concerns people might have about executing a simple will. Consider speaking with a skilled legal professional if you have further questions or concerns.