Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 64.2. Wills, Trusts, and Fiduciaries
Chapter 4. Wills
12/1/2022

Article 1. Requisites and Execution.

§ 64.2-400. Separate writing identifying recipients of tangible personal property; liability for distribution; action to recover property.

A. If a will refers to a written statement or list to dispose of items of tangible personal property not otherwise specifically bequeathed, the statement or list shall be given effect to the extent that it describes items of tangible personal property and their intended recipients with reasonable certainty and is signed by the testator although it does not satisfy the requirements for a will. Bequests of a general or residuary nature, whether referring only to personal property or to the entire estate, are not specific bequests for the purpose of this section.

B. The written statement or list may be (i) referred to as one that is in existence at the time of the testator's death, (ii) prepared before or after the execution of the will, (iii) altered by the testator at any time, and (iv) a writing that has no significance apart from its effect on the dispositions made by the will. When distribution is made pursuant to such a written statement or list, a copy thereof shall be furnished to the commissioner of accounts along with the legatee's receipt.

C. A personal representative shall not be liable for any distribution of tangible personal property to the apparent legatee under the testator's will made without actual knowledge of the existence of a written statement or list, nor shall he have any duty to recover property so distributed. However, a person named to receive certain tangible personal property in a written statement or list that is effective under this section may recover that property, or its value if the property cannot be recovered, from an apparent legatee to whom it has been distributed in an action brought for that purpose within one year after the probate of the testator's will.

D. This section shall not apply to a writing admitted to probate as a will and, except as provided herein, shall not otherwise affect the law of incorporation by reference.

1995, c. 363, § 64.1-45.1; 2012, c. 614.

§ 64.2-401. Who may make a will; what estate may be disposed of.

A. Except as provided in subsection B, any individual may make a will to dispose of all or part of his estate at his death that, if not disposed of, would otherwise pass by intestate succession, including any estate, right, or interest that the testator may subsequently become entitled to after the execution of the will.

B. An individual is not capable of making a will if he is (i) of unsound mind or (ii) an unemancipated minor.

Code 1950, §§ 64-48, 64-49; 1968, c. 656, §§ 64.1-46, 64.1-47; 1972, c. 825; 2000, c. 161; 2012, c. 614.

§ 64.2-402. Advertisements to draw wills prohibited; penalty.

Any person that advertises any direct or indirect offer to draw any will or have any will drawn is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor, provided that the provisions of this section shall not apply to a duly licensed attorney-at-law, partnership composed of duly licensed attorneys-at-law, or a professional corporation or professional limited liability company incorporated or organized for the practice of law so long as such attorney, partnership, or professional corporation conducts such advertisement in accordance with the Rules of Court promulgated by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Code 1950, § 64-50; 1968, c. 656, § 64.1-48; 1979, c. 438; 1996, c. 265; 2012, c. 614.

§ 64.2-403. Execution of wills; requirements.

A. No will shall be valid unless it is in writing and signed by the testator, or by some other person in the testator's presence and by his direction, in such a manner as to make it manifest that the name is intended as a signature.

B. A will wholly in the testator's handwriting is valid without further requirements, provided that the fact that a will is wholly in the testator's handwriting and signed by the testator is proved by at least two disinterested witnesses.

C. A will not wholly in the testator's handwriting is not valid unless the signature of the testator is made, or the will is acknowledged by the testator, in the presence of at least two competent witnesses who are present at the same time and who subscribe the will in the presence of the testator. No form of attestation of the witnesses shall be necessary.

Code 1950, § 64-51; 1968, c. 656, § 64.1-49; 2012, c. 614.

§ 64.2-404. Writings intended as wills.

A. Although a document, or a writing added upon a document, was not executed in compliance with § 64.2-403, the document or writing shall be treated as if it had been executed in compliance with § 64.2-403 if the proponent of the document or writing establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document or writing to constitute (i) the decedent's will, (ii) a partial or complete revocation of the will, (iii) an addition to or an alteration of the will, or (iv) a partial or complete revival of his formerly revoked will or of a formerly revoked portion of the will.

B. The remedy granted by this section (i) may not be used to excuse compliance with any requirement for a testator's signature, except in circumstances where two persons mistakenly sign each other's will, or a person signs the self-proving certificate to a will instead of signing the will itself and (ii) is available only in proceedings brought in a circuit court under the appropriate provisions of this title, filed within one year from the decedent's date of death and in which all interested persons are made parties.

2007, c. 538, § 64.1-49.1; 2012, c. 614.

§ 64.2-404.1. Reformation of will to correct mistakes or achieve decedent's tax objectives.

A. The court may reform the terms of a decedent's will, or any codicil thereto, even if unambiguous, to conform the terms to the decedent's intention if it is proved by clear and convincing evidence that both the decedent's intent and the terms of the will were affected by a mistake of fact or law, whether in expression or inducement.

B. If shown by clear and convincing evidence, the court may modify the terms of a decedent's will to achieve the decedent's tax objectives in a manner that is not contrary to the decedent's probable intention.

C. Notice must be given and a person may represent and bind another person in proceedings under this section to the same extent that a person may represent and bind another person in proceedings brought under § 64.2-733 or 64.2-734 relating to trusts.

D. The remedies granted by this section are available only in proceedings brought in a circuit court under the appropriate provisions of this title, filed within one year from the decedent's date of death and in which all interested persons are made parties.

E. This section applies to all wills and codicils regardless of the date of their execution and all judicial proceedings regardless of when commenced, except that this section shall not apply to any judicial proceeding commenced before July 1, 2018, if the court finds that its application would substantially interfere with the effective conduct of the judicial proceeding or prejudice the rights of the parties.

2018, c. 44.

§ 64.2-405. Interested persons as competent witnesses.

No person is incompetent to testify for or against a will solely by reason of any interest he possesses in the will or the estate of the testator.

Code 1950, §§ 64-53, 64-54; 1962, c. 338; 1968, c. 656, § 64.1-51; 2012, c. 614.

§ 64.2-406. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 2016, c. 266, cl. 2.

§ 64.2-407. Will of personal estate of nonresidents.

Notwithstanding the provisions of § 64.2-403, the will of a person domiciled out of the Commonwealth at the time of his death shall be valid as to personal property in the Commonwealth if the will is executed according to the law of the state or country in which the person was so domiciled.

Code 1950, § 64-55; 1968, c. 656, § 64.1-53; 2012, c. 614; 2016, c. 266.

§ 64.2-408. Presumption of formal execution of wills made by persons in military service; will of personal estate of persons in military service and seamen.

A. A will executed by a person while in the military service of the United States, as that term is defined in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50 U.S.C. § 3901 et seq.), that purports on its face to be witnessed as required by § 64.2-403, upon proof of the signature of the testator by any two disinterested witnesses, shall be presumed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, to have been executed in accordance with the requirements of that section and shall be admitted to probate as if the formalities of execution were proved.

B. Notwithstanding the provisions of § 64.2-403, a person while in the military service of the United States, or a seaman or mariner while at sea, may dispose of his personal estate in the same manner as he might heretofore have done.

Code 1950, §§ 64-55, 64-56; 1968, c. 656, §§ 64.1-53, 64.1-54; 2012, c. 614; 2016, c. 266.

§ 64.2-409. Wills of living persons lodged for safekeeping with clerks of certain courts.

A. A person or his attorney may, during the person's lifetime, lodge for safekeeping with the clerk of the circuit court serving the jurisdiction where the person resides any will executed by such person. The clerk shall receive such will and give the person lodging it a receipt. The clerk shall (i) place the will in an envelope and seal it securely, (ii) number the envelope and endorse upon it the name of the testator and the date on which it was lodged, and (iii) index the same alphabetically by name of both the testator and the executor then qualified in a permanent index that shows the number and date such will was deposited.

B. An attorney-at-law, bank, or trust company that has held a will for safekeeping for a client for at least seven years and that has no knowledge of whether the client is alive or dead after such time may lodge such will with the clerk as provided in subsection A.

C. The clerk shall carefully preserve the envelope containing the will unopened until it is returned to the testator or his nominee in the testator's lifetime upon request of the testator or his nominee in writing or until the death of the testator. If such will is returned during the testator's lifetime and is later returned to the clerk, it shall be considered to be a separate lodging under the provisions of this section.

D. Upon notice of the testator's death, the clerk shall open the will and deliver the same to any person entitled to offer it for probate.

E. The clerk shall charge a fee of $5 for lodging, indexing, and preserving a will pursuant to this section.

F. The provisions of this section are applicable only to the clerk's office of a court where the judge or judges of such court have entered an order authorizing the use of the clerk's office for such purpose.

G. The clerk may destroy any will that has been lodged in his office for safekeeping under this section for 100 years or more.

Code 1950, § 64-57.1; 1958, c. 392; 1964, c. 390; 1968, c. 656, § 64.1-56; 1970, c. 567; 2012, c. 614; 2019, c. 529; 2020, cc. 68, 589, 1063.