How to Make a Will in Alaska

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

Updated by , Attorney (University of Arkansas School of Law)

Steps to Create a Will in Alaska

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

  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.

Why Should I Make an Alaska 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 a personal representative, the person who makes sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

What Happens if I Don't Have a Will?

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.

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

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 you have especially complicated goals, you should talk with an attorney. See Do I Need an Attorney to Make My Estate Plan?

What Are the Requirements for Making a Will in Alaska?

To make a valid will in Alaska, you must be:

  • at least 18 years old
  • of sound mind.

Alaska Stat. § 13.12.501.

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:

  • list your property and the people you want to inherit it
  • sign the document
  • refer to the statement or list in your will.

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.

How Do I Sign My Alaska Will?

To finalize your will in Alaska, you must:

  1. sign your will in front of two witnesses.
  2. have your witnesses sign your will within a reasonable time after witnessing your signature. Alaska Stat. § 13.12.502.

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.

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

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.

Should My Will Name a Personal Representative?

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.

Can I Revoke or Change My Will?

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

  • performing a "revocatory act," such as burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying all of the will or a portion of it for the purpose of revoking it. You can perform this revocatory act yourself or ask someone else to do it for you, or
  • making a new will that states it is revoking the old will or that has contradictory terms.

Alaska Stat. § 13.12.507.

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).

Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?

In a handful of 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. Alaska currently doesn't allow e-wills, but that may change in the future.

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

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.

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