For a will to be valid, certain technical aspects must be done properly during the execution process. Technicalities vary between states and states also differ on how precisely technicalities must be followed.
One of the biggest dangers of drafting your own will or using a form to create a will that you purchase online, is the possibility that a court might refuse to accept the will. Why? Because you did not follow the necessary technical formalities to properly execute the will.
A common formality that often invalidates a self-created will is the failure to include the necessary witness statements and signatures. However, not every state is as inflexible as others in enforcing the strict formal requirements.
This issue was illustrated in a recent post on the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog titled “Case Summary on Attestation of a Will.”
The article discusses a recent decision by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. In the case, a will consisted of six numbered, loose pages. The person who made the will signed it on Page Five, while the witnesses signed it on Page Six. The will contents ended on Page Five in the middle of a statement.
For its part, Page Six started with language that did not appear to follow what was on Page Five. The witnesses’ signatures did not come with a formal attestation that they had actually seen the creator sign the will. Despite those flaws, the court decided that the will could be given a presumption of having been properly executed.
Some states are stricter about what they will accept than the Maryland court. Even in Maryland, people should be careful to properly execute their wills.
This case had to be decided by an appellate court, which doubtlessly cost the estate a lot of time and money.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Dec. 10, 2016) “Case Summary on Attestation of a Will.”
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