Who can be a testator?
A testator is someone who creates a valid will and testament.
According to US law, each state determines who can be considered a testator.
That being said, in most states anyone who has testamentary capacity — which means being of legal age, sound mind, and operating of their own free will — can become a testator.
Testators express their final wishes about the distribution of their assets, the care of dependents, and other matters important to them.
Their will is a legal document, and executors of it should manage the decedent’s estate and fulfill their intentions.
What is a testator?
The term “testator” came into English from the Latin word “testari,” which means “to make a will” or “to bear witness,” and refers to a person who makes a will.
In earlier times, the term “testatrix” served as the female counterpart of “testator.”
Now, the old-fashioned term has given way to just “testator” being generally accepted when referring to either males or females.
The history of the testator concept spans many centuries.
In ancient Rome, the law recognized the importance of an individual’s right to dispose of their property. Wills were important to protect the decedent’s family legacies and wealth.
In medieval Europe, the practice of creating wills was formalized and regulated.
The Statute of Wills in England in 1540 gave freedom to landholders to transfer their land and property through a last will and testament as they saw fit.
Today, to make a will valid, a testator signs the document in the presence of a notary and witnesses.
A holographic will, which is a handwritten will, may also work in some cases. Such measures are essential to protect the assets and wishes of a decedent.
Who can be the testator of a will?
There are common requirements courts use to define if a person is eligible to be a testator.
Age of majority
For most states, a testator must be at least 18 years of age, the legal age for many areas and regions. Still, minors can create a will under certain circumstances.
For example, if they have a legal guardian or get court permission, even before reaching the age of majority, they can express their final wishes.
If a person has the rights and responsibilities of an adult — such as being in the military, having dependents, or being in need of special protections — a court may also grant minors the ability to become testators.
A testator must be of sound mind to understand the importance of estate planning and the consequences of creating a will.
To be viewed as having a “sound mind” or being “mentally competent” means that a person is able to think clearly, reason logically, and communicate effectively.
If there are concerns around mental well-being, a testator (or their family, friends or guardians) should consider creating a power of attorney document.
This document allows someone to make financial and legal decisions on behalf of a testator if they are (or should they become) mentally incapacitated.
Furthermore, a testator must understand what their personal property entails, what it represents, etc. “Knowing the property” refers to being aware of what assets and possessions make up the estate.
A potential testator must know the nature and value of their property, including personal belongings, real estate, bank accounts, and so forth.
The decision to create a will and testament should come willingly and of an individual’s own volition.
Testators must act of their accord, with no undue influence by the use of force, threats, or manipulation.
A testator can consider their loved ones and family members when creating a will. Also, a testator can leave or assign items, directives, responsibilities or gifts to specific individuals or organizations.
In addition, to make a will self-proving, testators should consider the probate process and consult with a law firm, which can simplify the work of the probate court.
Legal residency or citizenship
A testator isn’t obliged to be a legal resident or citizen of a country or state when creating a will.
However, a non-resident who wants to be a testator should seek legal advice from an estate planning attorney to ensure their will is valid and follows all applicable state laws.
Doing so is crucial to make sure that the will is considered to be a legal document that stands up in a court of law if needed.
What are the best practices for creating a valid will?
A testator is responsible for creating a legal and legible last will and testament. Keep the following tips in mind to create a valid document:
- Clearly explain wishes about distributing assets and property
- Choose a trusted executor of the will who can carry out the wishes and manage the estate according to the law
- Outline provisions for taking care of minor children or dependant individuals with special needs or requirements
- Appoint a guardian if necessary to ensure care for minor children/dependants
- Review life insurance policies and other estate planning documents to make sure that final wishes will be adequately honored and carried out
- Create a codicil (appendix that updates the will) or a special supplement to the will after making changes
- Keep the original copy of the will in a safe place and inform the named beneficiary or the executor of the will
- When creating or updating a will, seek the help of professional advisors experienced in estate planning
Secure your legacy and create a will with PandaDoc’s templates
Now that you know who a testator is, consider creating your online will.
Start by creating an account on the PandaDoc platform. After that, check out our templates, including this sample of testament agreements. You can create, review, and finalize a new will online.
Put your testator’s signature on the doc using the PandaDoc e-signature feature.
Aside from a quickly downloadable copy being available, we guarantee that your will is securely stored and easily accessible via the PandaDoc’s platform.
With your testament of will accurately documented, you can enjoy convenience and peace of mind.