While having a last will and testament is great and essential to every estate plan, it won’t be worth the paper its written on if it isn’t validly executed. Every state has different requirements that a last will and testament must meet in order to ensure that the will is validly executed, but for the most part, every state has many of the same requirements and formalities. If these requirements aren’t met, the will can’t be legally enforced. Below are the requirements for a valid last will and testament in Alabama.
Age & Capacity
In order to execute a last will and testament, a person must be at least 18 years of age. The person must also be of sound mind. To be of sound mind means to be aware of what property you have in your estate, what you want to do with your property, and you must be able to comprehend how your property will be distributed based on your will. A common mistake made by many is waiting until a sick family member is suffering from some form of dementia before urging them to execute a will. This is never a good idea as it will almost always call the person’s capacity into question, which may provide an opening for the will to be contested.
Writing and Signature Requirements
A last will and testament in Alabama must be in writing and signed by the testator (the person writing the will), or at the testator’s direction and in his or her presence. The will also has to be witnessed and signed by at least two people. These witnesses must either see the testator sign the will or witness the testator acknowledge his or her signature on the will. Historically, a person who had an interest in the assets in the will would be disqualified as a witness to the execution of the will. That is no longer the case.
A “Self-proving” Will?
If the above requirements are met, the will has been validly and legally executed in Alabama. However, when the will has to be enforced by a probate court one of the witnesses will have to appear at the probate court in order for the will to be enforced by the court. If a will is self-proving then this step can be skipped.
A “self-proving” will is one that comes with a sworn statement from the testator, who acknowledges that the document is his last will and testament and that he or she is 18 years of age or older, of sound mind, and that he or she is executing the will voluntarily. The witnesses of the will must affirm that the testator voluntarily signed the will, and to the best of their knowledge the testator was at least 18 years old, of sound mind, and was under no duress when signing the will. These sworn statements can be made in front of a notary public. For this reason, most wills are notarized in addition to the previously-mentioned requirements.
If you’d like to know more about the requirements of a valid last will and testament, or if you’d like to have a last will written, contact our office today at (205) 578-1597.