Maxine Aaronson, Attorney at Law
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Estate Planning Newsletter

  • When a Decedent's Killer is Also an Heir
    If a person murders a relative, is he/she entitled to receive any of the victim’s property? In most cases, the answer would be “no.” Usually, a convicted killer cannot inherit a victim’s property, even if he/she... Read more.
  • Taxation of Long-Term Care Insurance After HIPAA
    People are living longer, but for many a reality of aging is that at some point they are unable to care for themselves. The costs of retirement homes and in-home care are rising, generating concerns for many on how to pay for the cost... Read more.
  • Processing a Life Insurance Policy Death Claim
    The beneficiary of a life insurance policy is the person entitled to receive the death benefit of the policy when the insured person dies. In order to collect on a death benefit claim, the beneficiary must usually comply with specific... Read more.
  • Tax Issues Related to Contaminated Property
    The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) imposes liability for the investigation and cleanup of contaminated real property without regard to whether the landowner created or allowed the... Read more.
Estate Planning News Links

Formal Requirements of Wills & Witnesses

A witnessed will is only one of several different types of wills. It is also referred to as a “formal” or “attested” will, and involves the eyewitness participation of other people.

Witnesses

In most states, a witnessed will must be observed by 2 individuals. They must also state that they were present when the person (testator) signed the will, and then recite the way it was signed. This helps safeguard the witnessing (in case at a later date, they are unavailable to verify the testator’s signature on the will).

Who Should Be A Witness

A witness should not be someone who will inherit under the will. Some states disallow this type of witness, and other states limit the inheritance a witness to a will can receive. Witnesses should also be competent to testify about the signing of the will and likely to outlive the testator.

Signature Requirements

A witnessed will must be signed by one of the following:

  • The person making the will (testator)
  • A person the testator has chosen to sign on his/her behalf
  • A conservator chosen by the courts

Marks of the Testator

The testator does not necessarily have to put his/her signature on the will. Other marks will satisfy the signature requirement if the testator is not able to sign the will because he/she is either illiterate or disabled. These types of marks include:

  • Any mark that is near the testator’s name
  • Another person’s signature (with the testator’s direction), in the presence of the testator
  • A conservator’s signature

However, in order for these types of marks to be valid as signatures, they must be witnessed and signed by 2 other persons.