The 4 steps to take after creating and finalizing a will

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2023 | Elder Law |

Establishing your last will and testament marks an important milestone in life planning, especially as a senior. It’s a significant step that provides peace of mind, knowing your family will respect your wishes. However, the process doesn’t end after the ink dries on this crucial document. There are necessary steps to take after you finalize your will to ensure everything is in order.

Sign and witness your will

In Virginia, there is a specific process for validating your will. It starts with signing your will in the presence of two credible, non-beneficiary witnesses. Their signatures support your will’s voluntary creation and your mental competence. While not mandatory in Virginia, notarization is an optional step that provides extra legal security.

Store and protect your will

Storing your original will safely is crucial. Consider a fireproof home safe, a bank’s safe deposit box or entrusting it to a legal professional. You should consider notifying your executor or a trusted individual about the document’s location and access method. Additionally, you can create and disperse copies of your will in various places. For added security, consider digitizing your will and storing it on a secure cloud service.

Review and update your will

You must regularly review your will, particularly after significant life events like marriage, divorce, a new birth, death or relocation. In the event of changes that could impact your will, you should modify your will by drafting a new one or adding a codicil—an amendment—to your existing will. After doing so, you must sign and witness the updated will or codicil as you did the original.

Notify and distribute to your beneficiaries

Once your will is finalized, either you or your executor should inform all beneficiaries of their inheritance. Before distribution, ensure you pay off all debts, taxes and estate expenses so that others do not have to pay on your behalf. Within four months of becoming executor, submit a detailed list of estate assets and a history of transactions with the commissioner of accounts, a court-appointed overseer of the estate administration.

Maintaining these four steps promotes a secure and effective will that mirrors your wishes. This can minimize potential estate disputes and clearly outline your plan, emphasizing these measures’ practical benefits.


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