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A will is a legal document that states a testator’s wishes and instructions for managing and distributing their estate after death. In contrast, intestate succession is passing the property of the decedent according to the State’s intestacy statute instead of a will.

A valid will must comply with the law where the will is executed or where the testator domiciles at the time of signing the will or death. In the majority of states, a validly executed will should be in writing, signed by the testator, and notarized. The process of making a will should be witnessed by two individuals.

If a will is improperly executed, it may still be valid according to the harmless error rule of the Uniform Probate Code (UPC). The party who wants to validate the will should prove that the testator intends the writing to be their will by convincing evidence.

The testator should have the capacity and consciously make the will. If the testator lacks the intent to create the will, the will is estimated to be invalid unless there is evidence to prove the intent.

[Last updated in August of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]