Making a Will in Alaska

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

What Can I do With 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 Die Without 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 do-it-yourself will software or online will programs. 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 Requirements for Signing a Will in Alaska?

To finalize your will in Alaska:

  • you must sign your will in front of two witnesses, and
  • your witnesses must sign your will within a reasonable time after witnessing your signature or acknowledgement.

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.

Should I Use my Will to 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 will software and online will produce 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.
  • Making a new will that revokes part or all of the will by stating this in the new will or by contradictory terms in the new will. 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).

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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