Benjamin Franklin once said “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” For many different reasons, many individuals do not have a valid will at the time of their death.
Having a valid will at the time of your death allows you to determine what will be done with your property after your death. With a few exceptions, you are free to decide who your property goes to upon your death.
If an individual dies without a valid will, then the State of West Virginia determines how your property is divided according to the laws of intestate succession. These laws, under certain circumstances, are fairly complicated and may have unintended consequences. However, contrary to the belief of some, the State of West Virginia does not receive an individual’s property if that individual has heirs. Intestate succession laws depend on your marital status, number of children, whether a parent or sibling is living, and a number of other factors.
Even if you tell one of your family members or a friend that you want a certain property to go to them upon your death, without a valid will, that may not happen. That is why it is of the upmost importance to have a valid will. Otherwise, your property may not go to the person you intended.
In West Virginia, a valid will requires the actual document to be in writing and signed by the person making it, which is known as the “testator.” The testator must sign the will in the presence of at least two competent witnesses, who must also sign in the presence of the testator and each other. This means that the will must be signed in the presence of at least three people: the testator and the two competent witnesses.
West Virginia also recognizes a holographic will, which is prepared entirely in the testator’s handwriting.
In addition to having a valid will, it is important to keep a will up to date. Events like marriage or separation, the birth of a child, relocation, acquirement of assets, and death of a beneficiary can substantially change how your estate is settled.
At The Moore Law Firm, PLLC, our attorneys can easily guide you through the process of preparing a will.