The Commonwealth of Virginia, like each state in the union, has its own statutory requirements for what constitutes a valid will. A testator, the person making the will, must be a minimum age of 18 and have the proper testamentary capacity. Testamentary capacity is a lower standard than other mental states of mind and essentially means the testator understands the nature of his or her estate and is executing a document directing who receives the property upon death. It is the signature requirements, however, that cause more wills to fail than any other issue.

The testator should sign and date the will in the presence of two witnesses, both over the age of 18. These witnesses must then also sign the will in the presence of the testator. Although there is no form of attestation required by law, legal experts recommend having the witnesses sign a self-proving affidavit in front of a notary public. This may be useful if at some later date the will is challenged.

Holographic or handwritten wills also may be valid under state law. The will must be completely handwritten and it will be necessary to have two witnesses testify to the fact that the handwriting is that of the testator.

Once a will is created, it’s prudent to inform the executor, the individual named to carry out the terms of the will, of the existence of the will and its location. A will should be reviewed every two or three years or if a significant life event occurs. If questions emerge, an estate planning lawyer can explain the legal requirements of a last will and testament.