An oral will, also known as a verbal, spoken or nuncupative will, is valid in numerous but not all states. The terms of an oral will are delivered verbally to witnesses and not communicated through a written document. The oral will sets out the testator’s preferences for how his or her real and personal property will be handled and distributed after death.
Where oral wills are legally permitted, the laws mandate strict requirements for their validity. Specifications as to who must witness the will, what property can be conveyed, if and how soon the witnesses must commit the terms of the will to paper, and sometimes the exact wording the testator must use can severely limit the validity of an oral will.
Oral wills do have their function, however, such as in emergency situations where pen and paper are not available or death is imminent and the testator does not have the time to commit his or her wishes to paper.
If you are interested in making an oral will, an attorney can explain to you the legal requirements for such a will in your state and see that specific steps are followed to ensure the validity of your will.
If you have witnessed an oral will or are an heir to an oral will, an attorney can help determine the validity of the will and explain your responsibilities as a witness or heir.
Because at the time an oral will is spoken it is not documented in writing, there is a great risk that the terms will be misinterpreted, forgotten, misstated, or intentionally misconstrued for personal gain by one or more heirs. To avoid the possibility that your wishes will not be honored or outright ignored, a written will may be your wisest option. An experienced attorney can advise you on the pro and cons of oral wills and prepare a written will if you so choose.
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