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 Delaware:
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 Delaware, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Delaware'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 Delaware, 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 Delaware, you must be:
You must make your will on hard copy. That is, it must be on actual paper. It cannot be on 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. Delaware does not permit handwritten wills.
To finalize your will in Delaware:
While Delaware law does not prohibit an "interested person" who stands to inherit under the will to serve as a witness, it is usually not a good idea. Del. Code Ann. Tit. 12, § 203.
No, in Delaware, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.
However, Delaware 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 (sworn statement) that proves who you are and that each of you knew you were signing the will. Del. Code Ann. Tit. 12, § 1305.
Yes. In Delaware, 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 Delaware, 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 you gave your spouse in the will and any provision that named your spouse as an executor or trustee is automatically revoked unless your will expressly says otherwise. Del. Code Ann. Tit. 12, § 209.
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.
Connecticut has passed the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act that accepts electronic signatures on some documents, but this law specifically excludes using this type of signature for a will or codicil. Del. Code Ann. Tit. 6, § 12A-103.
You can find Delaware's laws about making wills here: Delaware Code Title 12 Decedents' Estates and Fiduciary Relations Part II Wills Chapter 2 General Provisions Subchapter I. Tenets and Principles.