How to Make a Will in Alabama
How to make a will in Alabama and what can happen if you don't.
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How to Make a Will in Alabama

How to make a will in Alabama and what can happen if you don't.

Steps to Create a Will in Alabama

Here's a quick checklist for making a will in Alabama:

  1. Decide what property to include in your will.
  2. Decide who will inherit your property.
  3. Choose an executor to handle your estate.
  4. Choose a guardian for your children.
  5. Choose someone to manage children's property.
  6. Make your will.
  7. Sign your will in front of witnesses.
  8. Store your will safely.

What Can I Do with an Alabama Will?

A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:

  • leave your property to people or organizations
  • name a personal guardian to care for your minor children
  • name a trusted person to manage property you leave to minor children, and
  • name an executor, the person who makes sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

What Happens if I Die Without a Will?

In Alabama, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Alabama's intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and your nieces and nephews. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.

For details, see Intestate Succession in Alabama.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in Alabama?

No. You can make your own will in Alabama, using Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or if you want to disinherit your spouse, you should talk with an attorney. Nolo's will-making products tell you when it's wise to seek a lawyer's advice.

What Are the Legal Requirements for Making a Will in Alabama?

To make a will in Alabama, you must be:

  • an individual 18 years of age or older (or an emancipated minor), and
  • of sound mind. Ala. Code § 43-8-130.

Generally, "of sound mind" means that you:

  • understand what it means to make a will
  • understand what property you own
  • know who you want to leave it to.

You must make your will on hard copy. That is, it must be on actual paper. It cannot be an audio, video, or any other digital file. (Although, see "Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?" below.) Type and print your will using a computer, or you can use a typewriter. Alabama does not recognize oral (nuncupative) wills. Also, unlike some other states, Alabama does not permit handwritten and unwitnessed (holographic) wills, based on the legal requirement that all wills in Alabama be signed and witnessed by two people to be a valid will. Ala. Code § 43-8-131.

How Do I Sign My Alabama Will?

To finalize your will in Alabama:

  • you must sign your will in front of two witnesses, and
  • your witnesses must sign your will after observing you sign it or acknowledge it.

Ala. Code § 43-8-131.

Do I Need to Have my Will Notarized?

No, in Alabama, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.

However, Alabama allows you to make your will "self-proving" and you'll need to go to a notary if you want to do that. A self-proving will speeds up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it.

To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses will go to the notary and sign an affidavit that proves who you are and that each of you knew you were signing the will.

Should I Use My Will to Name an Executor?

Yes. In Alabama, you can use your will to name an executor who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust produces a letter to your executor that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name an executor, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.

Can I Revoke or Change My Will?

In Alabama, you may change or revoke your will at any time. You can revoke your will by:

  • Burning, tearing, canceling, or destroying it for the purpose of revoking it. You have to destroy the will or order someone else to destroy it. If someone else destroys your will, there must be at least two witnesses.
  • Making a new will that revokes all or part of your old will. Ala. Code § 43-8-136.

If you divorce your spouse or your marriage is annulled, any gift to your spouse or appointment of your spouse as an executor or trustee is automatically revoked, unless you state otherwise in your will. Ala. Code § 43-8-137.

If you need to make changes to your will, it's best to revoke it and make a new one. However, if you have only very simple changes to make, you could add an amendment to your existing will – this is called a codicil. In either case, you will need to finalize your changes with the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above).

Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?

In a few states, you can make a legal will digitally – that is, you can make the will, sign it, and have it witnessed without ever printing it out. Although such electronic wills are currently available in only a minority of states, many other states are considering making electronic wills legal. It is generally assumed that most states will allow them in the near future.

Where Can I Find Alabama's Laws About Making Wills?

You can find Alabama's laws about making wills here: Alabama Code Title 43 Wills and Decedents/Estates Chapter 8 – Probate Code.

For more on Alabama estate planning issues, see our section on Alabama Estate Planning.

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