When does a Will become effective?

I’ve gotten a couple of questions lately about when a Will becomes effective.  One of these questions was from a son whose mother had a habit of writing and rewriting her Will on a regular basis to delete one or another of her children as a beneficiary based on who was the last person to visit the mother.  Another question was from a man whose brother had died and he wanted to know if a written, but unsigned, copy of a Will was effective.

A Will is a document that tells the world (and most importantly, the court) how you want your ‘stuff’ distributed after you have died.  Most people think of this as telling the world about your plan for the inheritance of your estate.

Contrary to popular belief, a Will does not become effective when it is written, or when it is signed, or even when it is executed correctly with all of the proper witnesses and signatures and put in a safe-deposit box.

A properly executed Will becomes effective the moment after the person who is the subject of the Will takes their last breath.  That is, only when the person who is the subject of the Will has died.

This is because as long as a person is alive, they can change their minds about what they want to do.  Most Wills have some verbiage that says something to the effect that the person revokes any and all existing Wills and that this is now their Last Will and Testament.  But if they are still alive, they can always come back next year, or next week, and do the same thing again.

Also, unless the Will was executed with all of the correct processes and procedures, it is just a bunch of words on a paper and basically worthless.  If you want your Will to be effective at your death, you need to have the proper execution formalities for your jurisdiction.

The last Will that was properly executed before your death is the one that the courts will find to be effective, even if you had changed your mind and thought you were making the right changes in later documents.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

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