Here's a quick checklist for making a will in North Dakota:
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 North Dakota, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. North Dakota'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, great aunts and uncles, cousins of any degree, and the descendants of a spouse who died before you do. 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 North Dakota, 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 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 North Dakota, 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. North Dakota recognizes handwritten wills (N.D. Cent. Code § 30.1-08-02), but they are usually not a good idea.
To finalize your will in North Dakota:
Although North Dakota allows interested parties who stand to inherit serve as a witness, it's usually best for only disinterested witnesses to sign the will to avoid any argument that the testator was influenced. Cent. Code § 30.1-08-05.
All material provisions and the signature must be in your handwriting to create a valid holographic will. N.D. Cent. Code § 30.1-08-02.
No, in North Dakota, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal. However, if you don't want to have your will witnessed, you can have it notarized instead to make it legal. N.D. Cent. Code § 30.1-08-02.
Additionally, North Dakota 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 must sign an affidavit (sworn statement) in front of a notary public. The witnesses' statement says that they knew you were signing your will and that you appeared to be of sound mind and are signing voluntarily. N.D. Cent. Code § 30.1-08-04.
Yes. In North Dakota, 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.
If you have two wills and it's not clear whether you revoked the old will or not, North Dakota has rules that determine whether your new will revokes the old one or simply adds to it. If you intended to revoke the old will, the old will is revoked. North Dakota law presumes you intended to revoke your old will if the new will disposes of all of your estate. If you didn't dispose of all of your estate in your new will, North Dakota law presumes you only meant to add on to your old will. In this situation, the executor should follow the instructions in both wills. If there's a contradictory term, the executor should follow the instructions of the new will for that particular term. N.D. Cent. Code § 30.1-08-07.
If you and your spouse divorce (or if a court determines that your marriage is not legal), North Dakota law revokes any language in your will that leaves property to your spouse or names your spouse to be your executor. This rule does not apply if you happen to remarry your spouse. N.D. Cent. Code § 30.1-10-04. 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).
North Dakota is one of a handful of states that technically allows electronic wills (e-wills). The requirements for making a valid e-will can be elaborate, and the concept is still fairly new. As a result, e-wills are still not commonplace. For more details on North Dakota's specific approach to e-wills, see What Is an Electronic Will?
You can find North Dakota's laws about making wills here: North Dakota Century Code Title 31 Uniform Probate Code Chapter 30.1-08 Wills.