What is a will?
A will is a document prepared by someone which states what they want to happen to their property when they die - how they want it distributed - identifying what property should go to which people. By preparing a legally valid will, a person can avoid having their probate estate pass on to others via state intestacy statutes. To ensure that a will is legally valid, the person preparing the will must follow various formalities and requirements. Most states have very rigid requirements as to what must be in the will and how a will must be created, although some states allow some flexibility and are willing to ignore harmless errors. The reason most states are so rigid in their requirements is to ensure that the person made the will freely and of their own volition and that they truly intended to have their property distributed in the way discussed in the will.
There are four general requirements for a will to be legally valid:
1. The person preparing the will must have legal capacity.
2. The person preparing the will must have testamentary capacity.
3. The person preparing the will must have testamentary intent.
4. The will must be prepared pursuant to specific formalities.