This is the next post in a series of articles discussing the issues one should consider when creating a Last Will and Testament in Hartford, Connecticut. Our previous post provided an overview of the topics to be discussed throughout this series. Creating a Will is an important part of estate planning. Wills contain a variety of information about how a person wishes to distribute their assets, guardianship of minor children, and who will be responsible for overseeing the process after their death. For a Will to be valid in Connecticut, it is imperative that the document comply with our state’s legal formalities. Failure to do so may have devastating consequences. An experienced attorney can help ensure that the legal requirements have been met so that your wishes are honored. If you need assistance, contact our office today to schedule a consultation.
Every state establishes requirements for creating a valid Last Will and Testament that will be enforceable upon the decedent’s death. Connecticut law requires that several formalities be observed to establish a legally binding document. First, only residents who are 18 and older and of sound mind may create a Will. These basic requirements are important to establish that the individual (also known as the testator) has the capacity to enter a legal document and is capable of understanding the implications of their Will. Determining whether someone is of sound mind can be challenging if, for instance, the person suffers from a cognitive disease such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Unfortunately, when the testator’s competence is in question, potential beneficiaries or heirs may challenge the validity of the document in probate court. Questions about a testator’s capacity to create a Will or change an existing one should be reviewed with an experienced Connecticut estate planning lawyer to avoid potential problems down the road.
Under Connecticut law, Wills must be in writing and signed by the testator in the presence of two disinterested witnesses who must also sign the document. It is important to understand that some states consider oral Wills or handwritten Wills to be valid. This is not true for Connecticut. Other states permit witnesses to use electronic means, such as videoconferencing or telephonic presence when observing a Will signing. Connecticut law, however, requires witnesses to be physically present when the testator executed their Will. This can present challenges under certain circumstances but must be observed to create a valid document. Finally, a disinterested witness is someone who is not a potential beneficiary of the estate. This means, for instance, that a testator should not generally have their spouse, children, or other heirs act as witnesses. Pursuant to Connecticut law, any bequests that would otherwise have been made to an interested witness will be void.
Individuals desiring to create a Last Will and Testament are not required to work with an attorney to do so. Unfortunately, because of the differences in laws across the country and with the growing trend toward do-it-yourself preparation, mistakes in complying with Connecticut’s requirements are not uncommon. To help ensure that your Will is considered valid upon your death, we recommend working with a Connecticut attorney with estate planning experience. Our firm has significant estate planning experience and we are ready to assist you. Contact our office today to speak with a Hartford lawyer. We also serve the areas of Wethersfield, New Britain, Rocky Hill, East and West Hartford, Bristol, Glastonbury, and Manchester, as well as the Middlesex County cities of Middletown and Cromwell.