Planning for the Future


Is It Ever Too Late to Write (or Revise) a Will?

All states have minimum ages for executing valid wills, but none has a maximum age.  It can — and does — happen that people have attorneys draft wills right up to the “last minute.”  That’s not always a good idea, however.

First, few people know when their “last minute” is.  It’s far better to take time to think about how assets should be distributed, rather than trying to beat the clock.  While almost any will is better than no will at all, a hastily drafted document may leave out important family, friends or charities that might be included if more time was devoted to its execution.

While there are no upper age limits for wills, all states have rules regarding “testamentary capacity.”  In general, the person signing the will must know that he or she is executing a testamentary document, know the extent of the property they own, intend to benefit those named in the will and must not be under any duress or undue influence.  If a will is challenged, it’s up to the probate court to determine whether the individual was mentally capable of executing a will and whether the document accurately represented the individual’s intent.  A new will that differs vastly from earlier wills may be a sign of undue influence.

Where the estate can demonstrate that the will was executed while the individual was “of sound mind and memory,” that it was reviewed regularly with an attorney and that later wills were consistent with earlier documents, it is less likely that a court would find lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence.  That’s why it’s important to see an attorney early, even knowing that changes will likely be needed in the future.