Is A Will Still Valid If It Doesn'T Have A Testator Signature?
Generally, a will is considered valid if it's signed by the creator and at least two witnesses, among other requirements. Sometimes, though, a family will discover their loved one's will does not have their signature and wonder if the probate court will still accept it. The answer depends on a few important factors.
Were There Witnesses to the Will's Creation?
The purpose of validating a will is to make sure it was the decedent who wrote the document and not someone impersonating them to defraud the estate. That's why almost every state requires multiple witnesses to also sign the will confirming it belongs to the decedent and the person was of sound mind and free from duress when they created it.
In absence of the decedent's signature on the document, some courts will accept testimony from witnesses who can verify the decedent wrote the will that was submitted to the court. For instance, the decedent sent a copy of the will to their friend to review it for errors and omissions but passed before they could take the original to get notarized. The friend can submit a copy of the email and attachment to help prove the will was drafted by the testator.
The more witnesses you have, the better the chances the court will accept the document as the decedent's official will. However, not every testimony is a good testimony. Be sure to consult with an attorney who can help you secure strong witnesses who will give you the best odds of getting the court to accept the submitted will.
Does the Will Align with the Testator's Intentions?
Another thing the court will look at when determining if it's valid is whether the directives in the document align with what the decedent intended. A will that follows exactly what the testator discussed with others may get a pass, while one with glaring disparities will probably be rejected.
The testator wanted most of her money to be donated to charities, for example. However, the will submitted to the court assigns the bulk of her cash and property to friends and family members. This mismatch between the decedent's intentions and the outcome will likely make the probate judge hesitate to accept the submitted document.
To get the will validated using this method, you'll need to gather evidence showing the will follows through on things the testator discussed in life, such as voice recordings, emails, and previous wills that were canceled. Again, you'll want to have an attorney help you secure the documentation needed to support your claim that the will is valid.
For help with this and other probate administration issues, contact a local lawyer.