Estates and Wills
Taking care of estates and wills when you’re in good health is not something many people think about.
Yet, this is the best time to create a will. It’s essential if you want to be sure your estate and property end up being distributed exactly how you want it to after your death.
You can also make a living will that outlines instructions to be followed should you become unable to make rational decisions while alive.
The laws surrounding the last will and testament in Alabama aren’t complicated. You should consult with an experienced attorney, though, as any small errors could result in your will being contested.
About Estates and Wills Under Alabama Law
A will also called a ‘last will and testament,’ is a legal document that details how a person’s estate or personal property will be distributed when they die.
If you want to protect your family and property, it’s important to create a will under an attorney’s guidance.
Creating a will enables you to:
- Detail exactly who will be given certain items of your property.
- Name a personal guardian to care for your children if they’re minors when you die.
- Name an executor. An executor is a person who is responsible for making sure the terms of your will are carried out.
- Name an adult to care for the property you’re leaving to minors.
Before the terms of a will can be carried out, it must be proven in probate court. For this reason, it’s important that you word the will correctly and make your instructions very clear.
What Happens to Your Estate if You Do Not Make a Will?
Alabama is an ‘intestacy’ law state (see 2016 code of Alabama). This means if you do not make a will, your property is distributed by a court to your closest relatives.
Your estate will first be distributed to surviving spouses and children. If you do not have a spouse or children, a court will look for grandchildren, your parents, and other related family members.
The court will then determine who gets your property. If no relatives can be located, the state will take possession of your estate.
As you can see, it’s important that you make a will while you’re in good health if you want to say where and how your estate is divided. You can choose to leave your property to whomever you want, and your wishes may be very different to that of a court.
Requirements for Making a Will in Alabama
To legally create a will in Alabama, there are a few boxes to check. First of all, to be eligible to create a will, you must be:
- At least 18 years of age
- Of sound mind
- Free from any form of influence from other people (acting on own free will)
In addition to this, to be able to finalize a will, you must:
- Write up your will
- Sign your will in front of two witnesses
- The witnesses must also sign the will after witnessing you sign it.
To further clarify this, Section 43-8-131 of the Code of Alabama states:
“every will shall be in writing signed by the testator or in the testator’s name by some other person in the testator’s presence and by his direction, and shall be signed by at least two persons each of whom witnessed either the signing or the testator’s acknowledgment of the signature or of the will.
Do You Need an Attorney Present to Create a Will?
Under Alabama law, you do not need an attorney present when you write your will. Neither do you need to consult with an attorney before or after making your will.
It is strongly advised that you do consult with an attorney, however. It’s not unheard of for family members to contest a will after someone has died. Consulting with an attorney during writing your will can safeguard against such things conflicting with your wishes after you’ve passed.
In some instances, working with an attorney can also save time and money. An experienced attorney will ensure your personal property is distributed in a timely manner. They may also know how to save on taxes, so it’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced will writing attorney.
Naming An Executor
It’s advisable that you name an executor in your will. This could be your spouse, an adult child, a friend, anyone you trust with the task of handling your estate after you have passed.
You can also name your attorney as your executor. Many people opt for their attorney to handle their estate as it avoids possible conflict within a family.
The actions of an attorney are also covered by professional liability insurance. It’s something you should discuss with your attorney if you’re not sure where you stand on this decision.
Revoking and Changing Your Will
Under Alabama state law, you can revoke or change your will at any time. To do so, you must either:
- Tear up, destroy, cancel, or get rid of your original will in some form so you can create another. If you have someone else destroy the will for you, there must be at least two witnesses present.
- Or, you can make a new will that revokes and replaces part or the entirety of your old will.
It’s important to note that if you get divorced or have your marriage annulled in Alabama, any gift to your spouse in your will is automatically revoked unless you have explicitly stated otherwise.
If you only want to make small changes, it usually makes sense to amend your will. This is called a ‘codicil.’
Anything more than a minor change, and it’s usually best to revoke your will and make a new one.
We’re Here to Help
It’s crucial you discuss something as important as a last will and testament with an experienced attorney.
Warren Freeman, Attorney at Law, has been representing clients in Alabama for more than 20 years. He has extensive experience handling all family law matters, such as writing wills, managing probate, and handling divorce.
Call our office today on (256) 253-3169 to schedule your free consultation to discuss your estates and wills with Warren Freeman.