The following list offers brief answers to the most common questions we receive about Last Will and Testaments. Specifically, these answers apply to a Last Will and Testament in either Virginia or West Virginia. Take a look if you are considering creating your own Last Will and Testament and need some more information:

What is a last will and testament?

A last will and testament is a legally binding document that allows you to specify how you want your assets distributed after your death.

What happens if I don’t have a last will and testament?

If you pass away without a will, your estate becomes intestate. This means that your state’s default rules apply to who will receive your assets, since you have not created a plan yourself.

Is a last will and testament public record?

Yes, a will goes on public record. However, this does not happen until after your death. Before you pass, your last will and testament is a private document and in your keeping. However, because some people do not want the details of their estate and how it is divided to ever be public, they create estate plans with a trust, which is private and never goes on public record.

How often do I need to update my last will and testament?

Changing tax laws, changing relationships, and major life transitions all may cause you to need to update your last will and testament. However, we recommend everyone review their will at least once a year to determine if changes need to be made.

How do I give specific items to specific people in my last will and testament?

Instead of listing specific items in your will, which can become quite complicated and difficult to amend, we recommend you use a Gifts and Memories List to bequeath individual items of personal property to people.

[Related: Getting Certain Things to Certain People When You Die]

Where can I get a last will and testament?

The best place to get a last will and testament to ensure it will be valid in your state and work the way you want is to work with an estate planning attorney in your area.

[Related: 6 Tips for Choosing an Estate Planning Attorney Near You]

Can a last will and testament be contested?

A will can be contested in court. However, if a will is created with the right language and according to your state’s standards, it is very difficult for an argument against it to stand up in court. This is one reason it is very important to work with an attorney who is an expert in estate planning, so that you can be confident your wishes cannot be hindered.

Does a last will and testament expire?

A will does not expire. If someone has multiple wills, the will that is most recently dated and executed according to state standards is the one that will be considered legally binding.

What makes a last will and testament legally valid in Virginia and West Virginia?

For a will to become legally binding in Virginia or West Virginia, it must be signed and executed by you in the presence of two witnesses that are unrelated to you. A notary that is not one of the witnesses must also be present to sign and date your will.

Is a handwritten last will and testament legal?

In theory, a handwritten last will and testament that meets your state requirements could be valid. However, much of the language attorneys insert into wills is sophisticated legal language written specifically for a judge, not for you. So although it may be able to be done, it would be very difficult to meet the requirements of the court without the help of a professional.

[Related: Can You Make a Will Online?]


If you haven’t created your last will and testament, we would love to chat with you and help you prepare for the future with this important legal document. Call us today.

Disclaimer: The information you obtain in this post is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. This blog shares general best practices when navigating Virginia or West Virginia law, but you should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.


Joshua E. Hummer, Esq. is the founder of Relational Estate and Elder Law, and he has been a practicing attorney for over 15 years. While experienced in many parts of the law, Josh specializes in estate planning, estate administration, and elder law. He is licensed in both Virginia and West Virginia. Josh’s passion lies in helping people gain peace of mind about the future through holistic legal planning. When he isn’t meeting with clients or crafting legal documents, Josh enjoys spending time with his lovely wife, Jill, and their four vibrant children.