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How To Know If Your Last Will And Testament Is Legally Binding

For your last will and testament to be legally binding, you need to ensure you adhere to the requirements of your state. [1] If you don’t, you may very well be creating a document that won’t hold up its own in court. As a result, your post-mortem wishes will not be met. Created a last will and testament or currently in the process of doing so? Learn about the things you need to know to ensure you have a legally binding will:

Requirements for Making a Will

The laws may vary slightly depending on which state you live. [2] However, common requirements and part of just about every state law regarding wills include: [3]

  • Age: Most states hold that you must be a legal adult in order to make a will. This means you will be either eighteen or an emancipated minor. Some individuals under the age of eighteen can create a will. Basically, they have gotten married, joined the military, or been legally emancipated from their parents.
  • Capacity: Of course, it’s important for you to fully understand everything as you create a legally-binding document. To go into a little bit more detail, you have to understand what you leave to others, how you are related to the beneficiaries, and why you want them to receive your property. Some individuals have been deemed to be of insufficient capacity due to illness, mental or otherwise, or other things. It’s important to note that you can create a will even if you have been or currently mentally ill. You just need to be lucid on the day you make and sign it.
  • Signature: Your will has to be signed personally by you. If physically unable to sign your own will, however, someone else can sign it under your direction. An unsigned will is probably going to be legally inadmissible. Be sure to not miss this step.
  • Witnesses: Finally, just about every state requires two objective third-parties to watch as you sign your will. They must also sign that they were present as witnesses. These individuals must not be involved with your will in any way. They must not be beneficiaries, and for the most part, they shouldn’t be related to you. There may be allowed cases sometimes, but it’s always better to have an unbiased third party.

Different Types of Wills

You may want to learn about two other types of views. First, holographic view, written by hand by the testator. A few states do not require witnesses to be present for the creation and signing of this will. [4]

Another type of will is a nuncupative will. This occasionally used will is a verbal will spoken in front of two witnesses. [5] Used only in very specific situations, such as on a testator’s deathbed. Usually, the witnesses writes the will down and submits it to a probate court as soon as possible.

The legality of holographic and nuncupative wills will vary depending on your state.


1. Majette S. "Avoid Disagreements Between Your Power of Attorney Holder and Health Care Proxy". Thompson McMullen, PC. Retrieved 8 May 2017.

2. Padgalskas, Vanessa. “The Requirements for Last Wills Accepted in All 50 States.” LegalZoom Legal Info, 18 July 2016,

3. “Requirements for Writing a Will.” Rocket Lawyer, Rocket Lawyer,

4. “Holographic Will: Is a Handwritten Will Valid?”, 15 July 2017,

5. Jenks, Stuart Dixon. “Nuncupative Wills.” Cornell Law School, 1895.

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Advance Directives and Medical Power of Attorney

Life is full of uncertainty. You never know when you are going to need an advance directive. These directives dictate what your medical teams should do with you if you’re not in the state to make a decision. It’s an important tool as well that might save your family tons of fortune on unnecessary medical expenses, [1] among other things.

There are two primary kinds of advance directives:

  • A living will spells out your preferences about certain kinds of life-sustaining treatments. For example, you can indicate whether you do or do not want interventions.  This also includes cardiac resuscitation, tube feeding, and mechanical respiration as well.
  • A power of attorney directive names someone that you trust to act as your agent if you are unable to speak for yourself. You can also do separate financial and health care powers of attorney. You can choose one person to speak for you on health care matters and also someone else to make financial decisions,.

A power of attorney is more flexible by nature, as it has to deal with more uncertainties. You never know what you are going to be struck with that render you in the state that makes you unable to make a decision. Be sure that you are entrusting the power of attorney to someone who you trust. Also choose someone who does not benefit from your state.

Many states actually combine the living will and power of attorney into one "advance directive" form. 

Thinking About a Living Will

There are specific conditions that you should include in your medical power of attorney. This will guide the action of your medical staffs to comply with your wishes. You might want to include things like:

  • Do you want all pain relief options available, even if they may have the side effect of unintentionally hastening your death?
  • Which life-sustaining options -- such as tube feeding, mechanical ventilation, CPR, and antibiotics -- do you want, and which would you not want? How long would you want these options to be continued if your condition is not improving?
  • Would you want artificial life support removed if you are found to be irreversibly brain dead? Do you prefer that your life be sustained until your heart stops on its own?
  • What are your feelings about organ donation?
  • How do you want your body to be disposed of after death? (Burial, cremation, medical research?) Which funeral home or other organization do you want to handle the arrangements?

Every state has its own form of advance directives. Answering these questions and including specific conditions that you want in yours is important. It will allow you to adjust your demands to the laws of that state. This will ensure that you put yourself in the exact situation you’ve assigned, if the case does come to pass. You can always add [2] or change the clauses of your advance directives. That is if you change your mind in the future, or if the circumstances demand it.


1. Lubitz, J; Riley, GF. Trends in Medicare payments in the last year of life. New England Journal of Medicine. 1993;328:1092-1096.

2. “Advance Care Planning: Healthcare Directives.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

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What is an Advanced Health Care Directive?

What are Advance Directives?

Death is an inevitable part of life. You will never know what will happen next. For this reason, there is no excuse to fail to plan for your end-of-life care. In the case when you are in a permanently unconscious state but legally alive, you won't be able to make decisions.

A living will is put in place to dictate what will happen with your assets and how your current medical providers should treat you in the event you are unable to make your decisions known.  

A living will only becomes effective under circumstances that two physicians certify: [1]

  • You are unable to make medical decisions,
  • You are in the medical condition specified in the state's living will law (such as "terminal illness" or "permanent unconsciousness"),
  • Other requirements may also apply, depending upon the state.

A medical power of attorney (or health care proxy) allows you to appoint a person you trust as your health care agent. He/she will be authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf. [2]

Conditions for a medical power of attorney are:

  • It will only take effect if your physician concludes that you are unable to make your own medical decisions. 
  • If you regain the ability to make decisions, your health care agent cannot continue to act on your behalf. [2]
  • Before your agent can go on with a termination of the life-sustaining treatment written in your living will, a second physician must first confirm the state specified in that will. This means that they have to make sure that you are not in the state that can make a decision. [2]
  • Many states have additional requirements that apply to decisions about life-sustaining medical treatments.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

There are certain cases where it is legal for an individual to not honor your living will. [2] For example, emergency medical technicians cannot honor living wills or medical powers of attorney. Once emergency personnel has been called, they must do what is necessary to stabilize a person for transfer to a hospital. Only after which can a physician evaluate the person’s condition and determine whether their advance directive can be implemented.

No matter where you are in the US, you can have an advance directive, as it is legal and available nationwide. The most noteworthy is that laws governing the process vary from state to state. [3] So check with your legal advisors about how you want it to be done. Advance directives don’t cover every state. [3] It is advised that you complete your advance directives on a state that you plan to spend a significant amount of time in.

Advance directives do not expire. [4] The effect will remain the same unless you change it or until you complete another one, which invalidates the previous. It’s advised that, if you wish to change the details of your directive, you should complete a new one instead.

Thinking about planning for your end-of-life decisions can be scary. However, it can certainly reduce the burden on your family and can somehow improve their quality of life after you are gone. Make sure your last wishes will be fulfilled, plan your advance directives now.


1. Goebel, Karen, and Mary Therese Crave. Advance Directives for Health Care.

2. American Bar Association. Patient Self-Determination Act: State Law Guide. American Bar Association Commission on Legal Problems of the Elderly. August 1991.

3. "Health Care Proxy - New York State Department of Health" (PDF). New York State Department of Health. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-06-11.

4. “Exercise Your Right: Put Your Healthcare Decisions in Writing.” MedStar Harbor Hospital,

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10 Reasons Why You Should Get a Death Will
In this life, anything can happen at any time. It’s important to have a death will in order to ensure that your family won’t end up in shambles in sharing your possession and asset management for your family after you’re gone. If you’re not convinced about having a will, 10 reasons why you should have it includes:

1) You decide how to distribute your estate.

A will legally dictate how to distribute your properties among your relatives. This will ensure that your family will not have to go through fights and disputes deciding who should get what. If you think which one of your family member will benefit most from a piece of your estate, then you can decide exactly who gets what and when.

2) You decide who will take care of your minor children.

You can appoint a guardian to take care of your child, in the case that you have a minor at the time of your death. This will ensure that your child will surely be taken care of without you. Spare your child from the random fate of a state-appointed guardian. Some people will look to take advantage of your child, you can avoid having that by saying who gets to care for them after you’re gone.

3) To avoid a lengthy probate process.

Any estate requires probate period, with or without a will. However, it will go by much faster with a will that states exactly who it belongs to and how to handle it. The court will decide according to how you wrote your will through the administering process of your estate. Without any input from your part, it’s going to take a very long time to distribute all of your estates.

4) Minimize estate taxes.

The amount of money distributed to your family members or charity in your will reduce the estate taxes you have to pay when tax seasons roll around.

5) You decide who will wind up the affairs of your estate.

You can include in your will your choice of executor of your estate. This individual will act in your stead when it comes to dealing with financial and official issues. They must notify the bank, close your bank accounts, pay your remaining bills and other administration required. This will avoid the charges to your family by that state and financial institutions related to the issue.

6) You can disinherit individuals who would otherwise stand to inherit.

You can disinherit individuals who you do not wish to have your estate after your death in your will. For example, your ex-spouse might chime in during the estate distribution process to take a slice from your family. By disinherit any possible interferer, you ensure that all of your estates go to the people who you wish to give it to.

7) Make gifts and donations.

You can decide to give a sum of your estate to charity and donations. This will ensure that your legacy will live on, and your perception by the public will remain positive, even after you’re gone. In addition, an excluded gifts up to $13,000 from the estate tax can also increase the value of your estate for your heirs and beneficiaries to enjoy. Check the current laws of your state to learn more about tax exclusions.

8) Avoid greater legal challenges.

As stated, your will specifically decides who gets the money. A case involved the estate of a deceased son who was awarded over $1 million from a wrongful death lawsuit. When the son died, the son’s father, who had not been a part of his son's life for over 32 years, claimed inheritance over the money. He left nothing behind for the son’s relatives and siblings.

9) Because you can change your mind if your life circumstances change.

Because, as long as you live, you can encounter situations that might change how you want to distribute your estate. This means that you can update your will to include anyone who you might wish to have a part of your estate to enjoy it.

10) We don't know what will happen tomorrow.

Common reasons for not having a will includes procrastination and the unwillingness to accept death as part of life. People often overlook its importance until it’s too late. Your death means a hard time for your family. You don’t want to see them having a fight over your wealth after you’re gone.
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What is Advance Care Planning?

Advance care planning isn’t just for elderly people. Disease and accidents that may render us unable to make our own decisions when it comes to medical care. Even if you aren’t sick and don’t have a heightened risk for any medical condition, you should still look into advance care planning just to make sure you will receive the care that you would want if you become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions. [1]

Oftentimes, people in difficult situations find it hard to make clear decisions regarding medical treatment. Don’t wait until you’re the one in the hospital bed to think about how you want your medical care to be carried out. As you read this article, you will learn more about the definition of advance care planning and what choices you may make regarding medical care you can receive.

What is advance care planning?

This type of planning helps you to understand the different medical decisions that may need to be made, deciding what you would like to be done in those situations, and then communicating your desires to your family and healthcare providers. An advance directive contains a compilation of wishes, which is a legal document used in the case of you needing to receive medical care for whatever reason and being unable to speak for yourself.

This document also gives you a way to let your wishes be known regarding end-of-life care. It can be adjusted if you change your mind as a result of new information or a shift in your health condition. [2]

Possible medical decisions

Sometimes, decisions regarding emergency treatment has to be made. They usually relates to cardiopulmonary resuscitation, use of a ventilator, artificial feeding and hydration, and comfort care.



If your heart stops or beats irregularly, you may be in need of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. When someone applies CPR, they put pressure on your chest with a certain force at a certain speed to get air into your lungs. [3] Sometimes, people experience broken ribs or collapsed lungs as a result of the pressure used during CPR. [4] Defibrillation, or electric shocks, are sometimes used in tandem. Most young, healthy people often can resume normal heart activity after some CPR. However, some older adults with poor health do not.

Ventilator use.

These machines help you to breathe if you cannot yourself. [3] In essence, a tube enters your windpipe to make air go into your lungs. It may involve a cut through the throat or a tube going all the way down the throat from the mouth. Intubation can be very uncomfortable, so patients become sedated while a ventilator has to breathe for them. The process of inserting the tube through a cut in the throat is called a tracheotomy. [5] It is minor surgery that can be done at a patient’s bedside. Usually this method can be used when a patient likely has to be on a ventilator for a long duration.

Artificial nutrition and hydration.

Patients who cannot eat usually get nutrients they need by way of a tube down their nose into their stomachs. People who require tube feeding for a long time often have tubes directly inserted to their stomachs instead. Sometimes, a person can eat food but cannot do it themselves. In that case, assisted oral feeding becomes a better alternative with less risks.

If you cannot take in fluids, a nurse will put an IV line into your vein so you receive the liquid you need.

When recovering from sickness or surgery, artificial nutrition and hydration can be extremely beneficial. [6] If you are nearing the end of life or unable to take in the nutrition anyways, it may have no effect or even be harmful.

Comfort care.

Comfort care is usually employed when death is imminent. It basically eases or reduces your suffering, such as managing breathing, reducing medical treatments, offering counseling, and medicating for pain, anxiety, or any such things.

Looking to get a Living Will of your own? The Free Will Kit provides a Will & Testament kit for free! We’ve helped over 10,000 people so far with their arrangements and would love to help you. Click the button below to learn more.


1. Larson, Aaron. "How a Power of Attorney Works". ExpertLaw. Retrieved 4 May 2017.

2. “Advance Care Planning: Healthcare Directives.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

3. Field JM, Hazinski MF, Sayre MR, Chameides L, Schexnayder SM, Hemphill R, Samson RA, Kattwinkel J, Berg RA, Bhanji F, Cave DM, Jauch EC, Kudenchuk PJ, Neumar RW, Peberdy MA, Perlman JM, Sinz E, Travers AH, Berg MD, Billi JE, Eigel B, Hickey RW, Kleinman ME, Link MS, Morrison LJ, O'Connor RE, Shuster M, Callaway CW, Cucchiara B, Ferguson JD, Rea TD, Vanden Hoek TL (November 2010). "Part 1: executive summary: 2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care". Circulation. 122 (18 Suppl 3): S640–56. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.970889. PMID 20956217.

4. Boland LL, Satterlee PA, Hokanson JS, Strauss CE, Yost D (January–March 2015). "Chest Compression Injuries Detected via Routine Post-arrest Care in Patients Who Survive to Admission after Out-of-hospital Cardiac Arrest". Prehospital Emergency Care. 19 (1): 23–30. doi:10.3109/10903127.2014.936636. PMID 25076024.

5. Molnar, Heather. “What Is a Tracheostomy?” Is There Really Any Benefit to Multivitamins?, 18 May 2017,

6. “Artificial Nutrition and Hydration in Advanced Illness : Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing.” LWW, Oxford University Press,

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DISCLAIMER: The author, the publisher and the vendor of these forms makes no representations or warranties regarding the outcome or the use to which these forms are put and are not assuming any liability for any claims, losses, or damages arising out of the use of these forms. The user should not rely on the author or the publisher of these forms for any professional advice. Always consult with a lawyer regarding the rules and regulations governing your residing state/province. The information provided is for illustrative purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issues and concerns related to the drafting of wills and other legal documents. Remember that individual situations and estate planning needs differ, and this Kit may not be suitable for your specific circumstances.
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