The Important Essential Requirements for Executing a Will

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What are the requirements for executing a Will?

Legal Lens: Reif & Hunsacker

Recently, we discussed the reason everyone should complete an estate plan (please see the article from the January 2024 Advantage Magazine). But what are the requirements for executing a Will?

Legal Capacity and Age

A person must have “legal capacity” in order to execute a Will. According to Oregon statute (ORS 112.225), a person must be at least 18 years of age (or be lawfully married or emancipated) AND be of sound mind. While the age/marriage requirement is fairly objective, the requirements for a “sound mind” can be a bit more subjective. This analysis includes an understanding of what property you own, who your family is, and how you are proposing to dispose of your property upon death. It can also include an analysis of whether you are under any undue influence by others, fraud, or duress.

Clear Intentions and Instructions

A Will serves as a roadmap for how your estate will be managed and distributed after your death and who you want to implement your wishes. To ensure clarity and prevent misunderstandings or disputes among beneficiaries, it’s crucial to articulate your intentions and instructions clearly within the Will. This includes identifying specific beneficiaries, detailing the distribution of assets, and addressing any unique circumstances or wishes you may have.

Formal Execution and Witnesses

In Oregon, a Will must be in writing – video Wills or recorded Wills are not generally acceptable. Further, to help ensure that a Will is recognized by the Oregon courts, a Will should be executed in a formal manner. That is, it should be signed by the “testator” and attested by two witnesses. These witnesses should either “witness” the testator signing the Will or hear the testator acknowledge the testator’s signature.

Review and Revision

Life is dynamic and circumstances can change unexpectedly. As such, it’s essential to review and, if necessary, update your Will regularly to reflect any significant life events or changes in your wishes. Whether you experience marriage, divorce, the birth of children, or the acquisition of substantial assets, these events warrant a reevaluation of your Will to ensure it remains aligned with your current circumstances and objectives.

Legal Assistance and Expertise

While it’s possible to draft a Will independently using templates or online resources, seeking professional legal assistance is highly recommended, particularly for more complex estates. An experienced estate planning attorney can offer valuable guidance, navigate the intricacies of state law, and help tailor your Will to address your specific needs and goals. Investing in expert advice can provide peace of mind and minimize the risk of errors or oversights that could invalidate your Will or lead to unintended consequences.

Executing a Will is an important aspect of responsible estate planning that transcends age and life stage. By understanding and adhering to the basic requirements outlined above, individuals of all backgrounds can take proactive steps to safeguard their legacy, protect their loved ones, and ensure their wishes are honored according to their intentions.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information and content in this article is for general informational purposes only.