A will is a legal document a person creates to establish asset distribution instructions for after his death. Typically, a person creates a will to name his heirs and determine which of his assets each heir will receive after he dies. A person who creates this legal document to plan for the distribution of his assets is called a testator. In most places, a person must be a legal adult in order to create a will. Additionally, each jurisdiction may have other requirements for creating wills and ensuring that they are valid.
One of the main requirements for creating a will involves age. In most cases, a testator must be a legal adult in his jurisdiction. There may be some special cases, however, in which an individual in the armed forces is allowed to create a will prior to becoming a legal adult. Such exceptions typically depend on the laws in the jurisdiction.
Besides age, a testator is usually required to be of sound mind when he creates and signs his will. If a person creates a will and it is later determined that he was not of sound when he did so, the will may be considered invalid. This usually applies not only to the creation of an original will, but also to changes made to it later. If an individual alters his will and cuts an heir out of it, for example, the change he made may only be valid if he was of sound mind when he signed it.
In most cases, a testator has to sign his will to make it valid, but his signature alone may not be enough. In many places, will creation laws require a will to be signed by the testator and two witnesses. When witnesses are required, their signatures mean they are swearing that the testator signed the document and was mentally stable when he signed it. Additionally, will creation laws often, but not always, require the witnesses to be uninterested parties. This typically means a person who creates a will has to find witnesses who don’t stand to benefit from it.
Some jurisdictions also require wills to be notarized. This typically means a testator and two witness sign the will in front of a notary public. The testator usually pays a fee to have the document notarized, and each of the signing parties is normally required to present identification.