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  • Writer's pictureAnderson Cullen

Writing a Will

When a person dies without providing instructions for what to do with that person’s property, the state of Alabama has specific rules for dividing the property among the person’s relatives. However, people can replace the state’s distribution system and have their property distributed according to their own instructions by creating a will.

What is a Will?

A will is a written document listing how to distribute a person’s property after that person, known as the testator, dies. By creating a will, the testator can exercise broad control over how the testator’s property is distributed. However, there are some limitations on the testator’s control. For example, a testator’s spouse can often elect to receive up to one-third of the testator’s property, even if the testator does not leave anything to the spouse in the will.

Requirements of a Will

The requirements to create a valid will in Alabama are relatively straightforward. First, the testator must 1) be at least 18 years old and 2) be of sound mind. Then, the will itself must 1) be in writing, 2) be signed by the testator, and 3) be signed by at least two witnesses.

Does a Will Have to Be Notarized?

A will does not need to be notarized. However, when the testator dies, the will must be probated. During the probate process, the will must be proved, or demonstrated to be a valid will of the testator. If a will is notarized, the will is said to be self-proving, and no additional steps are necessary to prove the will.

If the will is not notarized, proving the will becomes more complicated. In this case, one or more of the witnesses will have to testify, or if the witnesses are legally unavailable, alternative means of proof will have to be used. Tracking down witnesses or securing other means of proof can be difficult and expensive, so having a will notarized can ultimately save a person’s family a lot of hassle after the person’s death.

Does a Will Have to Be Drafted by an Attorney?

As with getting a will notarized, having a will drafted by an attorney is not required, but it is helpful. An attorney can help a testator understand and navigate the legal implications of the testator’s decisions and can therefore help ensure that the testator’s wishes are carried out after the testator’s death. Without an attorney, a testator may unintentionally make mistakes that add stress to the testator’s family during the probate process, or the testator may create provisions in the will that don’t properly account for Alabama law. Hiring an attorney to draft a will can avoid these issues and make the probate process easier for the family.

If you are interested in creating a will or would like more information, contact Anderson Cullen at (469) 559-8657 or to set up a consultation. Every situation is different, and no strategy works in every case. Together, we can figure out the right approach for your situation.

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Communication with this firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship, nor does the information provided here constitute legal advice. No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than that of legal services performed by other lawyers.

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