A last will and testament is a document that enables you to decide how to dispose of your property upon death. A will also serves a number of other important functions. For example, your will can name a person to serve as guardian of your minor children as well as an executor to oversee the administration of your estate.
Who Can Make a Legal Will in Missouri?
Missouri law governs the execution and admission of wills. Anyone who is at least 18 years old and of sound mind may execute a will in this state. The phrase “sound mind” may be confusing at first, but it basically means that the person who is making the will understands what they are doing. If you are capable of understanding that the document you are signing is a will, then you are of sound mind. The mere fact that a person suffers from a mental disorder, such as Alzheimer's, does not necessarily invalidate the presence of a sound mind.
Does a Will Have to be in Writing?
Under Missouri law, a will must be in writing, which usually means typed. There is a limited exception for what are known as oral or “nuncupative” wills. Such wills are only permitted when they are made by a person who is literally on their deathbed–i.e., in “imminent peril of death”–and even then, the law requires two witnesses to be present, and for one of those witnesses to take down the dying person's statements in writing. An oral will may only dispose of no more $500 in personal property, meaning it cannot be used to leave your house or other real property to someone.
Does a Will Have to be Witnessed?
Since the person making the will is obviously not around to prove the document's authenticity after death, Missouri law requires a valid will to be signed by at least two disinterested witnesses. A disinterested witness is anyone who does not stand to directly benefit from the will or the deceased person's estate. If an interested witness does sign a will, that does not automatically invalidate the document, although it can nullify any gift the will makes to that witness.
Note that the witnesses need only attest that the document they are signing is the person's will. The witnesses do not have to read or understand the contents of the will. If you are the person making the will, you do not need to discuss the contents with your witnesses, but you do need to sign the will in the presence of both witnesses.
While a will does not need to be notarized, it is common practice to have a Notary Public prepare a “self-proving affidavit.” This is a document signed by you and the witnesses attesting to the fact that you just executed your will. While this may sound redundant, having such an affidavit means your executor does not have to personally locate the witnesses after your death to prove the will's validity. The probate court will accept the affidavit as proof.
Speak With a St. Louis Estate Planning Lawyer Today
Making a will is not complicated, but the process will go much more smoothly for you and your family if you work with an attorney. Contact The Law Office of Keya M. Reed LLC today to schedule a consultation.