With so much information about estate planning readily available on the internet, some individuals may find it convenient to download a form document such as a will. This can be a costly mistake, however, because a will that is poorly drafted, improperly executed, or does not follow applicable laws may be invalidated by the court. The surest way to protect your assets and loved ones is to work with the right estate planning attorney. In this meantime, this article is a brief discussion of invalid wills.
Beware of Invalid Wills
The leading reasons a will may be invalid include:
- Improper Execution — An improperly executed will may be deemed invalid. Generally, the document must be signed by the testator (the person making the will) and Texas requires a will (not holographic) to be witnessed by two individuals (not named as beneficiaries) in front of a notary.
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity — The testator must be able to understand the reason for making the will and also know the extent of estate property. Someone who is not in the right state of mind due to a mental impairment or physical condition, or who is incapable of understanding the will for any other reason, may be deemed to lack testamentary capacity.
- Undue Influence/Fraud — Undue influence can occur when a beneficiary, caregiver or another person with an interest in the estate pressures the testator in creating or revising a will. Fraud can occur when the testator is provided with a number of documents to sign at the same time while being unaware that he or she is executing a will.
- Poor Drafting — A will must contain specific provisions to the effect that it is intended to be a will and the testator understands the reason for making it. The will must also clearly state how the estate property is to be managed and distributed. Finally, an executor must also be designated to carry out the instructions of the testator.
- Replacement by a Subsequent Will — Although wills should be updated to reflect the changes that occur over a lifetime — marriage, having children, acquiring property, divorce, remarriage, retirement — a will contest may arise when the distribution plan is significantly changed or there are changes to the beneficiary designations.
Why This Matters
A well-conceived will can help to protect your assets and ensure the beneficiaries receive the inheritance you had planned for them. By taking shortcuts, using a form document or making other costly mistakes, your estate may wind up in an expensive, lengthy court battle. By working with an experienced estate planning attorney, however, you will have peace of mind knowing your estate will be properly managed and your last wishes will be carried out.