Most people know that they should have a will, but many don't know what a will is and how it works.
Here’s a quick checklist for making a will in Alabama:
A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:
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.
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.
To make a will in Alabama, you must be:
Generally, “of sound mind” means that you:
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.
To finalize your will in Alabama:
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.
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.
In Alabama, you may change or revoke your will at any time. You can revoke your will by:
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).
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.
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.