Last Will and Testament FAQ’s

Who can legally create a will in Alabama?

 Any person of legal age (18) can create a will.  Courts will attempt to give effect to the expressed intent of the person who makes the will, but certain formalities should be followed to ensure the proper execution of any will.  An experienced attorney can ensure that a complete disposition of property is made and that no ambiguity is left open for interpretation by the courts.

What is a self-proving will in Alabama?

A self-proving will is a will with an affidavit attached to it in which the attesting witness certifies that the will was actually signed by the person making the will. Self-proving wills have the advantage of shortening the amount of time it takes to probate the will, since witnesses are not required to come to court and swear that the testator actually signed the will.  Our Dothan attorneys know how to draft and execute self-proving wills.

Who needs a will in Alabama?

Anyone of legal age who owns a checking account, a piece of property, any assets, or has a child needs a will.  Without a will, the Alabama law of intestacy will govern the disposition of the decedent’s assets, and the property very well may end up in the wrong hands.  In other words, if you die without a will in Alabama, your property will be disposed of through default rules created by the Alabama legislature!  Even people who have a trust should execute a will to make sure that any property outside of the trust is properly disposed.

Parents of minor children cannot ensure who would care for their child in the event of their death without these important legal instruments.  A will can effectively appoint a family member or friend as the custodian and guardian of the minor children, and prevent a family dispute over who gets the children when the parents are gone.  Our Dothan attorneys know how to effectively draft provisions in a Will to say where the minor child will go in the event of the death of both parents.

How do I change a will in Alabama?

A will can be amended by what is called a “codicil.” A codicil changes, rather than replaces, a will, and must meet the same formalities as the original will. The will is deemed “republished” as of the date of the codicil – this becomes important because any property disposed of by a will must be in existence at the time of execution. Essentially, in order to change a will, simply make a writing of the amended disposition, sign it in front of witnesses, and have the witnesses attest to it. The courts will treat all papers intended to be part of the will as one legal document.

How long is my will effective in Alabama?

Your will, if valid, is effective for life. Wills do not expire, and unless you revoke the will, it will be given effect when you die. One exception to this idea is the concept of revocation upon marriage. If you make a will and subsequently marry a spouse whom you do not include in your will, courts can modify or revoke the terms of the will, under the theory that you forgot to amend the will to provide for your spouse.  This is often referred to as a pretermitted spouse.

Where do I probate a will in Alabama?

Wills should be probated in the jurisdiction where the decedent was domiciled at death. This means that wherever the person’s primary residence was when he died, his will should be probated in that county’s probate court. Real property, such as land, in another state will require ancillary jurisdiction (a separate proceeding in that state’s courts) to determine the disposition of that property. This is because each state has its own title system, and title must be cleared in the state in which the property is located.

What happens if I die without a will in Alabama?

 If you die without a will, your property will pass through intestacy. This means the distribution of your assets will be subject to a set of default rules that vary by state, and might not go to who you want them to go to.  Also, the State of Alabama will determine the custody of any minor children. It’s always a good idea to make a will. Any property that passes outside of probate (such as property under the terms of a trust or life insurance contract) will not be affected by the making of a will.