What Should Be Included In A Will in Virginia?

Creating a will might not be the most exciting task on your to-do list, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most important. Without a will, you’ll leave the distribution of your assets and the care of your children up to state laws and courts, which probably won’t align with your wishes. At Jennifer Porter Law, PLLC, we understand that thinking about a will brings up big questions about life, legacy, and love. 

Essential Elements of a Will in Virginia

Creating a will in Virginia necessitates the inclusion of several crucial elements to communicate and execute your final wishes effectively. Here’s an overview of the essential components to include:

  • Executor Selection: Appoint an executor who will oversee the administration of your estate and fulfill your directives. It’s important to select someone who is not only trustworthy but also well-organized and prepared to take on the task. Additionally, naming an alternate executor is wise should your primary choice be unable to fulfill their duties.
  • Asset Listing: Inventory your assets, such as property, bank accounts, personal items, and investments. Working with your estate planning lawyer, decide how you’d like your assets to be allocated, specifying particular assets for direct bequests and others that may be distributed according to the will’s residuary clause.
  • Designating Beneficiaries: Clearly specify the recipients of your assets upon your death. Detailing which assets go to which beneficiary can help prevent misunderstandings or legal challenges.
  • Inclusion of a Residuary Clause: A residuary clause addresses the disposition of any assets not explicitly mentioned elsewhere in your will. This clause can be especially useful in straightforward estate plans, serving as the mechanism for distributing the entirety of one’s estate.
  • Guardianship Arrangements: For parents of minor children, it’s imperative to appoint a guardian to care for them should you be unable to. When choosing a guardian, consider their relationship with your children, personal values, and capacity to provide a nurturing and stable home.
  • Specific Wishes: Your will should also encapsulate any particular directions you have concerning your estate, including but not limited to funeral preferences and donations to charities. Detailing these wishes can help ensure they are respected and acted upon after your death.

What Makes a Will Valid in Virginia

For a will to be considered valid in Virginia, it must meet specific criteria set forth by state law. Understanding these requirements is crucial to ensure that your final wishes are honored and your estate is distributed according to your desires. Here’s a breakdown of what makes a will valid in Virginia:

  • Legal Age and Sound Mind: The person creating the will, known as the testator, must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. This means the testator understands the nature of making a will, knows the extent of their property, and recognizes the identities of those who are the natural beneficiaries of their estate.
  • Written Document: In Virginia, a will must be in writing. While typed is preferable for clarity and to avoid misinterpretation, handwritten wills, also known as holographic wills, can be valid if they meet certain requirements.
  • Signature: The will must be signed by the testator or, in some circumstances, by another person in the testator’s presence and at their direction. This ensures that the will reflects the testator’s intentions.
  • Witnesses: Virginia requires that a will be signed by at least two witnesses. The witnesses must see the testator sign the will or acknowledge the will and then sign the document themselves in the testator’s presence. It’s important to note that while beneficiaries can legally serve as witnesses, it’s generally advisable to use disinterested parties to avoid any appearance of undue influence or conflict of interest.
  • Voluntary Act: The testator must create and sign the will voluntarily. For the will to be valid, there must be no evidence of fraud, coercion, or undue influence.
  • Specific Provisions: While not a requirement for validity, a will should clearly outline the distribution of the testator’s assets, name an executor to administer the estate, and appoint guardians for minor children or dependents. Detailed instructions can help avoid confusion and legal disputes among surviving family members and beneficiaries.

A Personal Touch

While the legal aspects are essential, remember a will is also a personal document. It’s an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy and communicate your values and wishes to your loved ones. Whether it’s a family heirloom with sentimental value or a letter attached to your will, adding personal touches can make a significant difference to those you leave behind.

Ready to Draft Your Will?

Understanding what should be included in your will is the first step toward securing your legacy and protecting your family’s future. If you’re ready to take that step or have more questions about drafting your will, our team is here to assist you.

Contact Jennifer Porter Law, PLLC at (571) 532-9070 or online today to begin creating your Virginia will. Together, we’ll ensure your wishes are honored and your loved ones are cared for exactly as you intend.