Making a Will in Nebraska

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

By , Attorney · University of Arkansas School of Law

Steps to Create a Will in Nebraska

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

  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. (Nebraska gives you the option to deposit your will with the court. If you choose to do so, your will is confidential and no one will see it except you and anyone you authorize. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-2353.)

Why Should I Make a Nebraska 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 Nebraska, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Nebraska'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 Nebraska?

No. You can make your own will in Nebraska, using Nolo's Quicken WillMaker. 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 Nebraska?

To make a will in Nebraska, you must be:

Your will can dispose of your real property, personal property, and any property you own at the time of your death or that your estate receives after your death. Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 30-2353 and 30-2336.

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. Nebraska does permit handwritten wills (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-2328), but they are usually not a good idea.

How Do I Sign my Nebraska Will?

To finalize your will in Nebraska:

  • you must sign or acknowledge your will in front of two witnesses, and
  • your witnesses must sign your will. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-2327.

Neither witness should be a beneficiary of the will. If your witness is "interested", they can lose the gift if it is more than what he or she would have received under the intestacy law. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-2330.

Holographic (handwritten) wills do not require witnesses. (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-2328). To make a valid holographic will, all material provisions in your will, your signature, and the date must be in your handwriting. (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-2328)

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

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

However, Nebraska 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 states who you are and that each of you knew you were signing the will. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-2329.

Should My Will Name a Personal Representative?

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

  • burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying your will with the intent to revoke it
  • ordering someone else to burn, tear, cancel, obliterate, or destroy your will in front of you, or
  • making a new will that says it revokes the old one or has contradictory terms to the old one. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-2332.

If you and your spouse divorce (or if a court determines that your marriage is not legal), Nebraska law revokes any language in your will that leaves property to your spouse or their relative. It also revokes any language that names your spouse or your spouse's relative to be your executor. However, if you specifically state in your will (or divorce decree) that divorce should not affect the provisions in your will, then these rules won't apply. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-2333. 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).

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

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

You can find Nebraska's laws about making wills here: Nebraska Revised Statutes Chapter 30 Decedents' Estates; Protections of Persons and Property.

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