When they pass, most people want to ensure that their assets will go to the people closest to them. To make sure this happens, it is imperative that you create a last will and testament that spells out exactly how you would like your assets divided.
Your last will and testament is the document used after your passing that tells the courts how you would like your property and assets distributed. A last will and testament differs from a living will, which is only in effect during your lifetime and gives instructions on what should happen regarding your health and medical care should you become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions.
Whether you need to have a large amount of property and assets divided, or if you have only a few assets to protect, you can (and should) make a will.
What You Could Use Your Will for in Alabama
Your last will and testament protects your property and your family after your passing. Your will can be used for:
- Communicating who you want to leave your property to
- Naming a guardian for any minor children
- Naming a person to manage property and assets left to minor children
- Naming an executor to carry out the terms of your will
What Happens When You Do Not Have a Will When You Pass Away
Without a valid will in place, if you pass away, your property passes on to your heirs under intestate succession. Intestate succession can be much more burdensome for your heirs, both procedurally and financially. For example, a typical will would relieve the personal representative from posting a bond, filing an accounting of the estate, or obtaining leave of court to liquidate assets of the estate. When proceeding intestate, these tasks, and many others, are much more cumbersome. Intestate succession dictates how the courts will distribute your wealth, which is typically in a way that represents how an average person would set up a will.
If you are married when you pass away, your surviving spouse inherits your entire estate. However, if you have children or surviving parents, your estate could be divided, and each would receive a share of your estate. If you do not have a spouse or children, the courts will pass your estate to your parents, siblings, then grandparents, and so on.
If you want control over the distribution of your assets, it is vital to have a valid will in place. That is the only way to avoid intestacy laws.
Making Your Own Will vs. Having an Attorney Make Your Will
You do not need to hire an attorney to make your will. There are will-making products that will provide you with the documents you need to create a legal will. You should remember, however, that it is in your best interest to consult a lawyer, as the decisions you make will be legally binding and will dictate the distribution of your estate to your loved ones.
Legal Requirements for Making a Will in Alabama
There are specific legal requirements for a will to be considered valid in Alabama. These requirements pertain to the person making the will, as well as the will itself.
To make a will in Alabama, you must be 18 years old or older and of sound mind (Alabama Code § 43-8-130). Being “of sound mind” means that you understand your actions and what the consequences are of making a will.
You must have a hard copy of your will, meaning it must be on actual paper. At this time, Alabama does not allow electronic, digital, handwritten, or oral wills. It must be typed and printed from a computer or typed on a typewriter. Your will must also be witnessed and signed by two people. (Alabama Code § 43-8-131)
Having Your Will Notarized
Alabama does not require your will to be notarized. It does, however, allow you to make your will “self-proving,” which would require you to visit a notary. If your will is self-proving, this could speed up the probate process because the court can accept the will and will not have to contact the witnesses that signed it.
How to Change or Revoke Your Will
You can change or revoke your will at any time. If you are making changes to your will, you can create an amendment to your existing will. However, the best way to handle it would be to revoke your current will and make a new one. You can revoke your will by:
- Making a new will revoking your prior will.
- Burning, canceling, tearing, or destroying it. You may also consent for someone else to destroy it for you. However, if you have someone else destroy it, you must have at least two witnesses. (Alabama Code § 43-8-136)
What if you got divorced and never removed your former spouse from your will? If you have named them executor or gifted them anything in your will, that is all automatically revoked. Should you choose to leave them in their given position or ensure that they receive the stated property, you must mention that in your will. (Alabama Code § 43-8-137)
Let the Expert Attorneys at Brackin & Johnson Help You Make Sure Your Will Protects Your Property and Family
While you may not want to think about what will happen when you pass away, you also want to make sure that your family is protected and taken care of. Having a will in place can help ensure that your assets get distributed in the way you want.
The experienced attorneys at Brackin & Johnson have been preparing estate planning documents of all kinds for decades. Whether your estate planning is simple or very complex, we will provide you with the estate planning solutions that you need to protect your family legacy.
Contact us today and let us assist you with all of your estate planning needs.