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Requirements for a Valid Last Will and Testament

The right to transfer your property at death through a last will and testament is only allowed if you strictly follow the requirements of Arizona law.

Pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 14-2501, “A person who is eighteen years of age or older and who is of sound mind may make a will.” The “testator” is the one adopting the Will. To be valid the person must:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • have testamentary intent, the intent to give instructions for what will happen to his property upon death
  • have testamentary capacity (sound mind)
  • not be unduly influenced; and
  • sign the will or have someone else sign it at his direction

Three Types of Last Will and Testaments

Arizona law recognizes essentially three types of Wills, (a) non self-proved or witnessed Wills (b) self-proved Wills; and (c) Holographic (hand-written) Wills, each of which we explain in more detail below.

Wills do not expire or become invalid after a certain amount of time. But, it is a good idea to review your will periodically. Certain life events or changes in circumstances may warrant changing your will. For example, if you get married or divorced, have children, move to a new state, receive substantial new property or other assets, it is probably a good idea to review your will with an estate planning attorney.

Non-Self Proved Wills

Pursuant to A.R.S. § 14-2502, a non-self proving Will, must satisfy the following requirements:

  1. In writing.
  2. Signed by the testator or in the testator’s name by some other individual in the testator’s conscious presence and by the testator’s direction.
  3. Signed by at least two people, each of whom signed within a reasonable time after that person witnessed either the signing of the will as described in paragraph 2 or the testator’s acknowledgment of that signature or acknowledgment of the will.

A non-self proved Will generally requires the testimony of a witness that the Will is authentic and genuine. Thus, under subsection B, “intent that the document constitute the testator’s will can be established by extrinsic evidence, including, for holographic wills under § 14-2503, portions of the document that are not in the testator’s handwriting.”

Self Proved Wills

Pursuant to A.R.S. § 14-2504, a Will may be adopted and be self-proved before or after it is signed if it is acknowledged “by the testator and by affidavits of the witnesses if the acknowledgment and affidavits are made before an officer authorized to administer oaths under the laws of the state in which execution occurs and are evidenced by the officer’s certificate, under official seal” in substantially the form prescribed in the statute. Because of the affidavit, a self-proved will, unlike a non-self proved will, generally does not require the testimony of a witness in order to prove that the Will is genuine.

Holographic (Hand-Written) Wills

Hand-written wills are valid in Arizona. Pursuant to A.R.S. § 14-2503, “[a] will that does not comply with § 14-2502 is valid as a holographic will, whether or not witnessed, if the signature and the material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator.”

Many people purchase form wills online or from supply or stationery stores. Those forms typically contain printed or boilerplate provisions followed by blanks where the testator identifies the property to be disposed of, designates the names of the beneficiaries and the percentages of the estate to which each beneficiary is entitled. Some cases previously held that those forms did not adequately reflect the testator’s intent to adopt a will (to perform a testamentary act) and, thus were invalid and unenforceable. Given the current wording of the statue, however, generally Holographic Wills on preprinted forms will be enforced in Arizona. However, it is generally inadvisable to use such forms since preparing a Will is a complicated legal document, which has many variations and can create many unforeseen issues. Thus, it is best to have a qualified attorney prepare a custom Will for your particular situation.

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If you have a will contest or any questions regarding the validity of a will or trust, or have another dispute involving an estate, contact us today.

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