Having a will on record is one of the most basic and crucial estate planning steps. Especially when someone has valuable property or dependent family members, they generally need to have a plan in place in case something happens to them. Otherwise, their property will end up distributed according to state law and their children could end up in foster care.
A simple will gives someone an opportunity to name beneficiaries for specific assets and also to nominate a guardian to care for their children should anything happen to them. The creation of such documents therefore protects certain family members and gives a testator peace of mind. However, not every will holds up in probate court. Documents need to comply with state law for a judge to enforce them. Small mistakes and oversights can lead to the courts tossing out someone’s will. For example, wills signed in Massachusetts typically need witnesses present at the time of signing and not everyone follows the requirements involved.
There should be at least two witnesses
Massachusetts law is quite clear about the witness requirements for a valid will. Typically, in addition to having the signature of the testator who created the document, the will also needs to bear the signatures of two separate witnesses. These individuals will watch someone signing the will and can later testify to affirm their state of mind at the time of the document signing if there are questions about undue influence or a lack of testamentary capacity. The testator needs to understand the content of the will and the impact it will have on their families.
Those who will serve as witnesses typically need to be lawful adults and of sound mind. Generally speaking, they cannot be beneficiaries of the estate. People sometimes hire notaries to serve this role, and attorneys often provide professional witnesses for those who create a document with the help of an estate planning lawyer.
Of course, there are numerous other requirements that a will must meet before it will be empowered with authority in probate court. Learning more about Massachusetts estate planning and probate laws may help people put together the most useful collection of documents possible given their circumstances.