Making a Will in New Hampshire

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

By , Attorney University of Arkansas School of Law
Updated 10/12/2022

Steps to Create a Will in New Hampshire

Here's a quick checklist for making a will in New Hampshire:

  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 New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. New Hampshire'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, nephews, and other relatives to the fourth degree. 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 New Hampshire?

No. You can make your own will in New Hampshire, 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 New Hampshire?

To make a will in New Hampshire, you must be:

    Your will can dispose of any of your real or personal property, as well as any right or interest you have in property. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 551:1. It can also dispose of property your estate acquires after you make the will. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 551:7.

    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?"). New Hampshire does not permit handwritten (holographic) wills. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 551:2.

    How Do I Sign My New Hampshire Will?

    To finalize your will in New Hampshire:

    • you must sign your will in front of two witnesses, and
    • your witnesses must sign your will in front of you. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 551:2.

    Only "disinterested" witnesses who do not stand to inherit anything from your will should serve as your witnesses since "interested" witnesses can lose whatever gift you leave them by acting as your witnesses.N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 551:3.

    Your witnesses are not required to be physically present in New Hampshire. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 551:2.

    Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

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

    However, New Hampshire 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. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 551:2a.

    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.

    Should My Will Name an Executor?

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

    • canceling, tearing, obliterating, or destroying your will
    • ordering someone else to cancel, tear, obliterate, or destroy your will in front of you
    • making a new will that revokes the old one, or
    • making a writing that says it revokes the old one and follows the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above). N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 551:13.

    If you and your spouse divorce (or if a court determines that your marriage is not legal), New Hampshire law revokes any language in your will that leaves property to your spouse or names your spouse to be your executor. This rule also applies to your spouse's children and descendants. This rule does not apply if you specifically state in your will (or divorce decree or contract relating to the division of your property) that divorce should not affect the provisions in your will or if you happen to remarry your spouse. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 551:13. 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. New Hampshire currently doesn't allow e-wills, but that may change in the future.

    Where Can I Find New Hampshire's Laws About Making Wills?

    You can find New Hampshire's laws about making wills here: New Hampshire Revised Statutes Title LVI Probate Courts and Decedents' Estate Chapter 551 - Wills.

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