Signing a Will

So long as you have followed all of the content rules your state requires regarding making wills legal, you have composed a valid last will and testament. The only thing left to do in making wills legal is the signing process. Follow these simple steps to ensure that your will is legally signed and validated.

Signing a Will

Have witnesses sign

As part of proper estate planning, make sure that you date and sign your own will in the presence of two witnesses who are over the age of 18. If you live in Vermont, you will need to do this in the presence of three witnesses. Most states require the witnesses to watch you sign your will together, before they sign. A few states allow the witnesses to sign the will later, so long as you tell them that it is your valid will and that it is your signature on it. It is best to do it all together, to avoid any potential challenges, later.

Most states require that the witnesses be people who are not named heirs in the will. Furthermore, if you had a lawyer draft your will, then you may not use that lawyer as a witness, either.

About half of the states allow what is called a “holographic” will. These are handwritten wills. As long as the testators of these wills handwrite them in their entirety, sign them and date them they make these holographic wills legal, even without witnesses. Holographic wills are the easiest wills to challenge, because there are no witnesses; so, it is best to try and avoid making a holographic will.

Have your witnesses sign a self-proving affidavit

There is no legal requirement of notary signing for your will. However, it is a good idea to have your witnesses sign what is called a “self-proving” affidavit. This is a statement that is sworn by your witnesses before a notary public. Having this affidavit relieves your witnesses from having to swear in probate court to the validity of your will.

Notify your executor or personal representative

There is no requirement to file your will with the court. You should tell your executor (the personal representative who will carry out your will for you) about the existence and location of your will. Most people like to keep their will in a safe deposit box.

Residence requirement

As long as you created a valid legal will according to the state in which you live, then the will is valid in any state where you die. When you move to a different state, review that state’s laws regarding how to make wills legal and marital property (if you’re married). Most likely, you will find that your will is still valid. However, if that state has different requirements, you should revise your will accordingly.

For example, Greg lived in Utah where she created a valid legal will. He then decided to move to Vermont. Greg checked with Vermont’s requirements on what makes wills legal, and discovered that she needed a third witness, when she only had two in Utah. Therefore, Greg revised his will and used three witnesses, rather than two. Does this make sense?

Get Professional Legal Help Before You Sign Your Will

A defective will may not be discovered until it is too late to fix. Once you are dead and gone you won’t be able to explain what you meant, or correct mistakes. Contact a local estate planning attorney, who can help ensure that your estate is distributed in an orderly fashion according to your wishes.

Free Consultation with a Utah Estate Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have a business law issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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Payable on Death Beneficiary for Accounts

Planning your estate doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. You can transform your bank accounts into an estate planning tool by designating a beneficiary for your checking, savings and other deposit accounts. Simply ask your banker for their payable on death (POD) beneficiary form.

Payable on Death Beneficiary for Accounts

POD accounts function like an informal trust. Some banks even refer to these accounts a Totten or tentative trusts. After your death, the account beneficiary avoids probate and can claim the money directly from your bank. During your lifetime, the beneficiaries have no rights to the account. You can spend the money, close the account or change your beneficiaries. The account will function just as it did before you listed a beneficiary.

Who Can be Your Beneficiary

The beneficiary rules for POD accounts are very flexible. You can choose to have one beneficiary for several accounts or multiple beneficiaries for one account. Nonprofit organizations can serve as your beneficiary. Just be certain they are recognized as a charitable entity by the Internal Revenue Service. Depending on the laws of your state, you may be able to designate an alternate beneficiary, in case your first named beneficiary dies before you. If there are no living beneficiaries at the time of your death, the account will pass through probate.

What Accounts Can Have a Beneficiary

You can name a POD beneficiary for your checking and savings accounts, money markets, CDs and U.S. Savings Bonds. But you will probably need to complete a beneficiary registration form for each account. Joint accounts, such as held by a married couple, can also be transferred into POD account. The beneficiary will only receive rights to the assets after the last account owner dies.

Stocks and other securities can be transferred by setting up transfer on death (TOD) registration on the account. Most states have adopted the Uniform TOD Security Registration Act, but brokerage firms can still choose not to offer TOD registration.

How Do You Claim A POD Account?

Claiming a POD account is a straightforward process. The beneficiary goes to the bank or credit union holding the account and presents a copy of your death certificate. They will also need to show valid identification and fill out transfer forms. Some states have a short waiting period, but otherwise the beneficiary can claim the funds immediately.

TOD beneficiaries must take steps to re-register the securities in their names. This typically involves sending a copy of the death certificate and an application for re-registration to the transfer agent

Be aware, POD accounts are subject to outside claims. So you can’t use a POD account to avoid paying your debts or to disinherit a spouse. You must leave enough money in your estate to tie-up your affairs. Plus if you live in a community property state, your spouse has a right to half of your assets, including those only listed in your name.

Tax Issues with POD Accounts

After you die, estate or income taxes may be left owing. For example, if you are working at the time of your death, your estate administrator will file your last tax return. It is important that your will or living trust state if the POD account beneficiary is required to use funds to cover any tax liability.

Your beneficiary may also be subject to an inheritance tax depending on the laws of your state, and you family relationship. In most states, surviving spouses are exempt from inheritance tax. But unrelated individuals are frequently taxed on an inheritance.

Free Consultation with a Utah Estate Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have an estate issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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