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  • Glossary of Key Legal Terms You Should Know for a Will

    When preparing a will, you should be familiar with the relevant estate planning terms to prepare the document that can effectively serve your needs. Wills have a language of their own. Here are some key terms that you may hear used in connection with a will, along with what they mean.

    Witnessed Will

    Virginia law requires two adult witnesses for a will to be valid. Specifically, these witnesses must watch the will be signed. These witnesses must be disinterested, meaning they are not beneficiaries under the will. If a will is not witnessed, it does not have legal effect.

    Holographic Will

    Most wills are typed out on paper. Many testators seek the help of a lawyer to draft their will. A holographic will is written solely in the handwriting of the person whose will it is. A holographic will can be valid in Virginia if two disinterested witnesses witness the signature.

    Living Will

    A living will is your way of speaking for yourself about the extent of medical care you wish to receive after you can no longer express your wishes. Generally, you would need to give informed consent to medical care. However, a living will is an alternative to informed consent when you can no longer give it. An example of a term in a living will is that you may not want to be resuscitated by doctors if certain conditions exist.

    Legal Capacity

    Only certain people have the legal ability to make a will, such as people 18 or older with the necessary mental and testamentary capacities.

    Undue Influence

    Sometimes, a caretaker or a family member gains influence over a person with a will. They may prevail on the person to change their intention to cut someone else out and give them more. One cannot validly make a will under an undue level of influence from someone else. This influence can be grounds for invalidating a will.


    A person must sign a living document of their own free will. Duress is when a person with a will is subject to threats or physical action. They may also be subjected to extreme pressure from someone else to change their will or write it in a certain way. A person’s will can be deemed legally invalid if they were under duress when creating it.

    Testamentary Capacity

    A will is like any other legal document; the person signing it must have the appropriate cognitive abilities. There is a time when it is too late to make and sign a will. For example, if someone has dementia, they would not have the capacity to understand what they are doing. Thus, a court would likely deem it invalid if they signed a will. The requirement for mental capacity is why you need to act sooner rather than later to contact an estate planning lawyer.

    Mental Capacity

    A person must understand what they are doing to sign a valid legal document. People with specific disabilities or health conditions may not be able to understand the consequences of their will. Mental capacity is often used interchangeably with testamentary capacity.

    Contact Our Virginia Beach Estate Planning Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Today

    Our Virginia Beach estate planning lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC can help you draft a will that puts your mind and your loved ones’ minds at ease. To schedule an initial consultation, you can send us a message online or call us today at 757-LAW-0000. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore, Virginia.