Most people know that they should have a will, but many don't know what a will is and how it works.
A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. When you make a will in D.C. you can use it to:
In D.C., if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. D.C.'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 the District of Columbia, 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.
To finalize your will in the District of Columbia:
No, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal in D.C. While many states allow you make your will "self-proving," which prevents your witnesses from having to go to court and testify that they saw you sign the will, D.C. does not give you this option.
Yes. In D.C., 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 will software and online will 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 D.C., you may revoke or change your will at any time. You can revoke your will by:
If you and your spouse divorce, D.C. law automatically revokes your entire will. If you die without making a new will, you will die intestate (see above). If you want to give anything to your spouse, you need to expressly state this in your new will. If you have any concerns about the effects of divorce on your will, see an estate planning attorney for help.
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).
You can find D.C.'s laws about making wills here: Code of the District of Columbia Title 18 Wills Chapter 1 General Provisions.