Making a Will in Mississippi

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

By , Attorney · University of Arkansas School of Law

Steps to Create a Will in Mississippi

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

  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 a Mississippi 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 an executor, the person who makes sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

What Happens If I Don't Have a Will?

In Mississippi, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Mississippi'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 Mississippi?

No. You can make your own will in Mississippi, 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 Mississippi?

To make a will in Mississippi, you must be:

In Mississippi, your will can dispose of all of your "estate, right, title and interest in possession, reversion, or remainder" of the lands, tenements, hereditaments, or annuities or rents charged on them or arising out of them, your goods, and personal property that you own at the time you create the will or that you own at the time of your death. Miss. Code. Ann. § 91-5-1.

You must generally 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. Mississippi does permit handwritten wills (Miss. Code. Ann. § 91-5-1), but they are usually not a good idea.

Mississippi also allows for nuncupative (verbal) wills in very limited circumstances. You can make a verbal will if you make it during your last sickness that you die of or in the place where you were at for ten days before your death. Two witnesses must hear your will, and you must die within six months of making the will for it to be valid. Miss. Code. Ann. §§ 91-5-15 and Miss. Code. Ann. 91-5-19. Members of the armed services or mariners at sea do not have to comply with Mississippi's laws about making a will for their wills to be valid. Miss. Code. Ann. § 91-5-21.

How Do I Sign a Mississippi Will?

To finalize your will in Mississippi:

  • you must sign your will in front of two witnesses, and
  • your witnesses must sign your will in front of you. Miss. Code. Ann. § 91-5-1.

Holographic (handwritten) wills do not require witnesses. However, you must write your entire will and sign it in your own handwriting for it to be valid. Miss. Code. Ann. § 91-5-1.

Your witnesses should be disinterested since an interested witness who stands to inherit from your will can lose the gift you give them by signing as a witness. Miss. Code. Ann. § 91-5-9.

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

No, in Mississippi, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.

However, Mississippi 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. Miss. Code. Ann. § 91-7-7.

Should My Will Name an Executor?

Yes. In Mississippi, 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.

Can I Revoke or Change My Will?

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

  • destroying, canceling, or obliterating your will
  • ordering someone else to destroy, cancel, or obliterate your will in front of you
  • making a new will that revokes the old will, or
  • making a writing that says you revoke the old will and following the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above). Miss. Code. Ann. § 91-5-3.

Mississippi has special rules that may automatically revoke your will if certain events occur. For example, if you didn't have a child at the time you made your will but you do at the time you die (or your wife is pregnant with your child), your will is revoked unless:

  • your child dies before turning 21, and
  • your child dies without having been married or leaving his or her own children behind.

If this situation occurs, causing your will to be revoked, intestacy laws apply as though you never made a will. Miss. Code. Ann. § 91-5-3. While many states will automatically revoke any provisions where you left your spouse property or named your spouse as the executor of your estate if you divorce, divorce does not automatically revoke your will in Mississippi. So, if you get a divorce and don't want your spouse to inherit, you will need to make a new will.

    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. Mississippi currently doesn't allow e-wills, but that may change in the future.

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

    You can find Mississippi's laws about making wills here: Mississippi Code Annotated Title 91 Trusts and Estates Chapter 5 Wills and Testaments.

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