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 Alaska:
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 Alaska, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Alaska'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, 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.
No. You can make your own will in Alaska, 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 valid will in Alaska, you must be:
In Alaska, your will dictates what happens to the property you own at the time of your death and any property your estate acquires after your death. Alaska Stat. § 13.12.602.
Your will can also refer to a separate statement or list in which you describe how you want to dispose of your tangible, personal property (besides money), and your executor must follow the instructions in this document. To make this list a valid addendum to your will, you must:
You can prepare this document before or after you execute your will. Alaska Stat. § 13.12.513.
Your will must be on paper. Digital, video, audio, or other mediums are not currently accepted as valid wills in Alaska. (See “Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?” below.) You can type or print your will with a computer or typewriter. Alaska does permit handwritten wills (Alaska Stat. § 13.12.502), but they are usually not a good idea anyway.
To finalize your will in Alaska, you must:
Unlike other states, in Alaska, a beneficiary of the will can serve as a witness without losing the property gifted to them. Alaska Stat § 13.12.505. However, you might still prefer to only have people who don’t stand to benefit from your will serve as your witnesses to avoid any inference that you were under duress or unduly influenced at the time you signed your will.
Holographic (handwritten) wills do not require witnesses as long as the signature and material portions of the will are in your handwriting. Alaska Stat. § 13.12.502.
No, in Alaska, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.
However, Alaska 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. Alaska Stat. § 13.12.504.
Yes. In Alaska, you can use your will to name a personal representative who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust software produces a letter to your personal representative that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name a personal representative, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.
In Alaska, you may revoke or change your will at any time. You can revoke your will by:
If you and your spouse divorce or your marriage is annulled, any gift in your will or appointment of your spouse as a personal representative or trustee is automatically revoked unless your will explicitly states otherwise. Alaska Stat. § 13.12.804.
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. While the Alaska legislature recently proposed a bill regarding electronic records and signatures, it specifically states that it did not apply to the creation of wills or similar documents. So, at least for now, electronic wills are not permitted in Alaska.
You can find Alaska’s laws about making wills here: Alaska Statutes Title 13 Decedents’ Estates, Guardianships, Transfers, Trusts, and Health Care Decisions Chapter 12 – Intestacy, Wills, and Donative Transfers Article 5 – Wills, Will Contracts, and Custody and Deposit of Wills.