By HONEST ALF – the Little Guy Lawyer
(First in a series of 4 blog posts)
I once told a friend that he needed a Will and he said: “What’s a Will”? I thought: “Oh, oh – let’s go back to the beginning”.
Simply put, a Will is a document in writing but it is kind of special because it deals with a special situation, namely, the death of the author. Because the author is no longer around when the Will is activated – ok, did I forget to tell you that a Will is dormant and not operative until the author (known as the Testator or, for the ladies reading this, the Testatrix) dies? – the law has some interesting technical requirements before a Will becomes “legal” and in force.
First of all, it has to be signed by the Testator but only in a certain way and in a certain place. With very few exceptions (which I will talk about later), a Will requires at least two witnesses to be there, both at the same time, to watch the Testator sign – that’s the “certain way” – and all of the witnesses must sign at the end of the Will – that’s the “certain place”. And those witnesses must sign the Will in the presence of the Testator.
It gets better. If the Will has more than one page, each page should be initialed by all three of them (usually it’s three although it could be more if you want) and any changes (for example a strike out of any word) in the body of the Will must be initialed by those same three people. As a result, if, on the death of the Testator, a Will is produced for him and it contains changes that were not properly initialed, that change will be ignored. So, don’t mess with a properly signed Will.
And who can be a witness? Just about anybody over 18 years of age can be a witness but if the witness or the witness’s spouse is also a beneficiary (receiver of a gift) under the Will, the gift to that person fails. What’s the moral of the story? Don’t try to sign a Will on your own – see a lawyer!