Overview of the Importance of a Valid Will
Alabama’s probate code mandates several requirements that must be followed in order for a will to be valid. An invalid will could cause the estate to be probated according to the laws of intestate succession, where the wishes of the will-maker (the testator) are completely ignored, and the estate is distributed according to the decedent’s heirs as defined by Alabama law.
Requirements for a Valid Alabama Will
In order to be competent to make a will, a testator must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind, possessing the necessary testamentary capacity to make a will. This means that the person must understand what it means to make a will, must appreciate the extent of his or her estate, and must know the family members and other persons whose interests will be affected by the making of the will.
The will must be in writing (i.e., typed or printed) and signed by the testator or in the testator’s name by some other person in the testator’s presence and by his direction, and must be signed by at least two persons each of whom witnessed either the signing or the testator’s acknowledgment of the signature or of the will.
Numerous Ways to Challenge or Contest a Will
A will can be challenged or contested on a number of grounds. One may allege that any of the procedures or requirements outlined above was not followed properly, or that the testator lacked the testamentary capacity to make a valid will. Even a will that meets all the above requirements may be ruled invalid if it can be shown that the testator signed the will under duress or by virtue of fraud or undue influence. A will contest can cause contentious, drawn-out litigation where legal battles are fought over complicated factual and legal issues.
Careful Preparation and Execution Can Prevent Challenges Later
As a lawyer with extensive experience in both estate planning and probate litigation, Lana Hawkins knows that the best way to prevent future challenges is to properly prepare and execute the will in accordance with Alabama law. Always seek the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure your will is prepared with the care and skill required to be valid under Alabama law and to withstand any legal challenges. Contact The Hawkins Law Firm in Guntersville, Huntsville, and Arab, Alabama for assistance with the preparation of a will or estate plan.