A will is an instrument that a person of “sound mind” can sign. To be of sound mind, a person must be able to understand the nature of the act of signing a will, the nature and extent of his or her property, the natural objects of the person’s bounty, and the scope and reach of the will.
To be effective, a will must be signed in the presence of witnesses, and the witnesses must attest the will prior to the death of the person signing the will.
While a will can be in many different forms, it should identify the person’s family, it should appoint a personal representative, it should address specific gifts, and it should describe the person or entities that are to receive the residuary estate. A will can also include trusts for the benefit of minor or disabled beneficiaries.
A will contest can occur when the validity of a will is challenged. There are many grounds for such a challenge. They include: lack of mental capacity of the person who signed the will, the exercise of undue influence over the person signing the will, coercion, duress and fraud. To assure that a will can withstand these challenges, it is important to establish testamentary capacity and to assure that a person is acting voluntarily and without undue influence.