Despite similarities in the process to make a will in any state, it is important to know that each U.S. state has its own distinct requirements. Every state has statutory laws regarding wills; from how a will must be constructed to how it must be executed, each state—including Virginia—has specific legal parameters that you must satisfy in order for your will to be recognized as valid. When you begin to make a will in Virginia, it is very important to make sure you fully understand these requirements—otherwise, the court may reject your will. If you make a will online, be sure to use an online will template that is customized for the state.
Can I make a will online in Virginia?
Yes, you can make a last will and testament online in Virginia. You can use an online will making service to do so. Our choice for the most comprehensive online will tool is Trust&Will, and our budget pick is USLegalWills; see all our reviews of online will making tools here.
The main legal requirements according to the Code of Virginia for a will to be valid are:
- The Testator (the person making the will) must be 18 years of age or an emancipated minor.
- The Testator must be of sound mind.
- The will must be in writing. After making an online will, it must be printed out.
- The Testator must sign (or acknowledge) the will in front of two competent witnesses.
- The witnesses must sign the will in front of the Testator and each other.
While Virginia does not invalidate a will signed by “interested” witnesses (a person who is also a beneficiary in the will), it is recommended that both your witnesses are “disinterested.” This avoids potential legal complications.
Does Virginia require a notarized will?
Notarization is not required when you make a will in Virginia. However, like many other states, Virginia allows for a will to be “self-proved.” This requires notarization. When a will is presented in the probate court, it must be validated. By having a “self-proved” will, it helps the probate court to quickly validate the will and allow the executor of the estate to carry out the will.
To “self-prove” your will in Virginia, you and your witnesses go before a notary public to make sworn statements. Your witnesses sign a “self-proving affidavit,” which is attached to the will. Once your signatures and the affidavit are notarized, your will is “self-proved.”
Can I name an executor in Virginia?
In Virginia, an executor can be named in an online will. The executor is the person designated to settle the estate and ensure that the will is followed after the Testator’s death. It is a good idea to name an executor in the will, and choose someone known and trusted. If an executor is not named in the will in Virginia, the probate court will appoint an executor to handle the decedent’s estate.
Here are the requirements for an executor in Virginia:
- Must be at least 18 years old, and
- Must be of sound mind.
You are free to name any competent adult as the executor of your estate in Virginia; the state has no additional requirements. The court is required to appoint this person unless someone challenges your choice. The court will then determine if the person is qualified to serve, and unless there is clear evidence of a conflict of interest or is otherwise unfit, that person will be appointed as your executor.
To name an executor who lives out-of-state, there are some specific guidelines in Virginia:
- A non-resident executor is required to appoint an in-state agent; an in-state agent accepts legal documents on behalf of the estate.
- Unless there is an in-state co-executor, an out-of-state executor may be required to post a bond.
Do I need an attorney to make a will in Virginia?
No, it is not required to use an attorney to make a will in Virginia. For most people (especially those with a simple estate and a straightforward will), making your own will online is a good option. However, in some situations—for example, if the estate is very large or complex—it is wise to consult an estate planning attorney for legal advice.
When using an online will making service, you want to make sure you use a template that is customized for Virginia. Be sure you double-check that you satisfy all the statutory requirements to execute a valid will.
What types of wills are valid in Virginia?
Any type of will which meets the federal and state-specific requirements is valid in Virginia, whether the will is made online or not.
Can I make a holographic will in Virginia?
A holographic will is a handwritten last will and testament, written in the Testator’s handwriting and signed with no attesting witnesses.
In Virginia, holographic wills are valid if the entirety of the will is in the Testator’s handwriting and it is signed. The court will then require at least two “disinterested” witnesses (meaning these witnesses cannot inherit from the will) to testify to the authenticity of the handwriting and signature.
However, holographic wills often face delays in probate court. In addition to requiring witnesses to testify to the handwriting, the court has to determine if the will contains the required language to show testamentary intent, if it contains all other necessary language, and if it includes the necessary provisions.
To avoid unnecessary legal delays, it is better to use an online will making service with a template designed for Virginia.
Can I make a nuncupative or video will in Virginia?
A nuncupative will is an oral will, which some people like to leave on video. Nuncupative wills are sometimes known as deathbed wills. While nuncupative wills are not ideal, they are allowed in Virginia under certain conditions.
In Virginia, nuncupative wills are only valid if made by active duty members of the U.S. armed forces or a mariner at sea—and only to dispose of personal property.
How is a living will different from an online will in Virginia?
A living will (also known as an advance directive) is a separate legal document detailing instructions on medical decisions and end-of-life care. Typically, a last will and testament is not read until after a person’s death and funeral—this means your family will be unaware of any medical directives or end-of-life care left in a last will and testament. In addition, for a living will to be legally valid, it has different requirements than that of a last will and testament. So if you leave medical directives in your last will and testament, even if they are known, these directives are not enforceable.
Instead, leave these instructions in a living will. Once you have a legally binding living will, you should tell your family and your medical providers that you have one. Make copies of it and give them to family, the executor of your estate, and your doctors. Like a last will and testament, you can make a living will online. To read more about living wills in Virginia, you can go here.
In Virginia, here is an overview for the legal requirements for a living will:
- The declarant must be a competent adult.
- It must be in writing.
- It must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign it.
- A declarant with a terminal condition can make an oral advance directive in front of their physician and two witnesses.
The state of Virginia maintains a free online registry (Connect Virginia), which allows residents to safely store healthcare documents. It is a secure registry that allows only medical providers, emergency personnel, and designated individuals access to the documents.
Why do I need to make a will online in Virginia?
If a person dies without a will, Virginia’s intestacy laws determine what happens to that person’s estate. The court appoints a guardian for any minors as well as an executor of the estate to settle any bills and distribute property. The estate is then distributed among your surviving spouse or family members in accordance with the intestacy distribution laws of Virginia. It is not uncommon for property to be held up in probate for months or even years at a time. This whole process can become extremely long and complicated, so it is best to avoid dying without a will in place.
What can I include in an online will in Virginia?
Besides naming an executor for the estate, the following can be included when making a will online in Virginia:
- You can appoint a guardian for minor children as well as a guardian to oversee any property left to them.
- You can leave real estate, property, life insurance policies, or gifts to loved ones or organizations.
- You can name a trusted person to care for any remaining pets.
- You can designate who receives family heirlooms and sentimental items.
- You can distribute any other personal or sentimental items.
What should not be included in a will in Virginia?
When you make a will in Virginia, there are a few conditions that should not be included. A last will and testament is not the right place for designating end-of-life care or funeral instructions. Generally speaking, when someone dies, the funeral is arranged immediately. It is not until after the funeral that a will is consulted—meaning your family is unlikely to know about any directions for your funeral until after it has already been held. In addition to that, any end-of-life care or medical directive left in a will is not considered valid and will not be effective.
For directives and end-of-life care, create a living will or power of attorney document.
For funeral arrangement instructions, you don’t have to make a formal document. You can simply make your wishes known by discussing them with family, though you can make a separate document that details your desires. It might make it easier for your family to plan your funeral if they have something to refer to that contains your wishes. Make copies of any document you make to give to your executor or other family.
Can I change or revoke an online will made in Virginia?
A will is a legally binding document, whether made online or not, but you can change or revoke a will at any time.
You can change or revoke your will in Virginia by:
- Burning, cutting, tearing, shredding, or otherwise physically destroying all or part of your will with the intent of revoking it,
- Ordering someone else to physically destroy all or part of your will in front of you,
- Making a new will that states it revokes the old will,
- Making a new will that has contradictory terms to the old will.
It is a good idea to update the will after major life changes, such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, adoption, or acquisition of significant assets which change the distribution of property, or relocation to another state or country.
If you need to make major changes to your will, it is best to revoke it and make a new one. However, if you only need to make small adjustments or additions, you can instead add an amendment to your will. This amendment is called a codicil, and it must be finalized with the same formalities as the original will.
How do I finalize an online will in Virginia?
After you make a will in Virginia, you want to follow these steps to finalize it:
- If made online, print it out.
- Sign (or acknowledge) your will in front of two witnesses, and
- Have the two witnesses sign it in front of you.
To “self-prove” your will in Virginia, you and your witnesses go before a notary public and make sworn statements to attest the validity of the will. Have your witnesses sign a “self-proving affidavit.” Attach these to your will.
Be sure to consider these special considerations in Virginia:
- Divorce automatically nullifies any language that benefits your former spouse (including if they are the executor). You still want to update your will after divorce.
We tested multiple online will services to find out which ones produce the best last will and testament. Of all the wills we created—and had our lawyer review—Trust&Will had the best end product. Our budget pick for a fast and reliable online last will and testament is USLegalWills.
How can I learn more about making a will in Virginia?
Learn more about Virginia law for wills here: Code of Virginia
Title 64.2 – Wills, Trusts, and Fiduciaries