question.jpgIn Trusts and Estates

What is an attested will?

An attested will, which is a witnessed will, is the most common type of will. While each state has its own formalities which must be followed to create a legally valid attested will, the general requirements are that an attested will must be in writing, must be signed by the person whose will it is, and must be witnessed and signed by those witnesses.

Most states interpret the requirement that you must sign your attested will rather broadly, so that it includes any actions which you usually use as your signature. Thus, you can sign with your full name, initials, a nickname, use a typed or stamped name, or even use a fingerprint or the letter “X” and this will be considered a valid signature if that is what you intended. In addition, states generally allow the signature to be made by proxy, where somebody else puts a signature on your will at your direction and in your presence. For example, this is how someone physically disabled could meet the signature requirements. As for the location of the signature, while some states require the signature to appear at the end of the documents, others are silent on the matter.

With regard to the requirement that the will be witnessed and signed by those witnesses, most states require two witnesses. These witnesses must generally be credible and both understand they are, and intend to be, acting as a witness to the will. However, the witnesses should generally not be someone who has an interest or stake in the will, i.e., someone who is listed as an heir. Witnesses generally sign right after the will’s creator, although not all states require this. Thus, in states that do not require this, the witness can sign within a reasonable time of the will’s creator’s signature. In either situation, the witness should be signing the will in the presence of its creator.

Where the will is a holographic will, these requirements may be lessened, insofar as some states do not require holographic wills to be witnessed.