Will Validation: How to Verify the Authenticity of a Will?

A will serves as a roadmap for the distribution of property and assets of the deceased. It ensures that your estate goes to the people and causes that you care about. You can write a will on your own, or you can hire a professional will writer to do it for you. Professional will writers can guide you in writing a legally acceptable will.

Everyone above the age of 18 is encouraged to write a will. Before writing a testament, make an inventory of all your assets, choose beneficiaries and nominate an executor, decide on a guardian for your children and notarize it at the end. Store the will in a safe place and regularly update it every five years or whenever a major event like marriage, the birth of a child, death of a loved one, divorce, and more occur.

One of the duties of your selected executor is to find the will left by the deceased. After locating the document, the next challenge is to validate its authenticity. The executors can do their own research and either relax or get ready for a challenge to the will. However, the final decision on validity is made by the court.

If you don’t leave a will or if it is not valid, the court decides the fate of your assets according to the state laws. Every state in the US has different requirements for a will to be considered authentic. Therefore, it is crucial to verify the authenticity of a last will and testament after writing it. How to do it? Let’s Discuss.

Type of Testaments

There are four main types of testaments, accepted by all states in the US. They include testaments like a simple will, a testamentary trust will, a joint, and a living will. There are also other types of testaments namely, holographic and nuncupative wills, that are only accepted in a few states.

Due to the uncertainty that whether the holographic and nuncupative testament will be accepted by the court, these types of wills are rarely used. That is why a simple will is the most common type of will. It has a simple format and provides an excellent framework for you to write it yourself or with the help of a legal advisor. A simple will lists the necessary information like who will inherit your assets or who will be the guardian of your children. In this article, we will mostly discuss the factors that validate a simple will.     

How to Verify the Authenticity of a Will?

  1. Look for Signs of Tampering

The first step in verifying the authenticity of a will is to look for any signs of tampering. Make sure that the will includes all its pages. If one page is initialed, check to see if all other pages are initialed too. Check to see if any pages are missing or if the type of paper used in different parts of the will is different.

If all the pages are in place and no signs of tampering are found, the court will accept the testament unless a formal objection is filed. If you suspect that an objection may be filed, be prepared to seek professional legal assistance.

  1. Check for the Signature of the Testator

The next step should be to look for the signature of the deceased testator. The signature page is either the last or second last page of the will. A will that is not signed according to the state’s legal signing requirements is not considered valid. However, some states have special provisions if a testator cannot sign the will. Except under special conditions, a will without the testator’s signature is not acceptable in court.  

  1. Look for the Signs of Two Witnesses

In addition to the testator’s signature, check for the signs of the two witnesses. The signs of witnesses are also present next to the testators. Make sure that the witnesses were 18 years of age and competent when they signed the will. However, if the witness is a beneficiary or spouse of the beneficiary of the will, things can get complicated as more checks will be required to validate the will. A will that does not have signs of the witnesses is considered invalid and is not accepted in court.

  1. Check for Notarization

A notarized will is easier to verify. Even though notarization is not a requirement, getting a will notarized will save you from additional steps like locating the witnesses and getting them to sign an affidavit, and more.

Look for the signature of the notary right next to the notary paragraph. Also, look for the stamp of the notary on the document. The stamp includes the notary’s name and the country where the notary is registered. Also, look for when the notary’s commission expires, written either in writing or in the stamp. All these points validate that the will was notarized.

  1. Check for the Self-Proving Statement

A self-proving affidavit is a sworn statement attached to the testament and adds to the validity of the testament. It is a statement that proves that the testator signed and acknowledged the will before the witness and the notary. A self-proving statement eliminates the need for further affidavits from witnesses. A self-proving statement is also not a requirement of the law; however, it eliminates the need for further verifications.   

  1. Identify the Nominated Executor and Beneficiaries

An executor is a person selected by the testator to manage the estate whereas, beneficiaries can be people or organizations that are nominated in the will to receive the property.

The court identifies the executor and makes sure that they are willing to serve. However, they can only serve as an executor if the court accepts the will and issues a document called Letters testamentary.

Just like executors, beneficiaries also require court approval. Identification and statements from executors and beneficiaries help validate testaments.   

The Wrap Up

The last testaments provide a roadmap for the distribution of the estate of a deceased person. However, how can you make sure that the will is authentic? In this article, we discussed some ways that can help you validate the authenticity of the last testament. These steps include looking for signs of the testator and two witnesses. Moreover, a notarized will or a will be having a self-proving statement increases the validity of the will. Above all, look for signs of tampering. Hopefully, this article will educate you about the various aspects that are crucial to check for when verifying the last testament.