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 South Dakota, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. South 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, cousins, and your spouse's relatives. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.
For details see Intestate Succession in South Dakota.
No. You can make your own will in South Dakota, using Nolo's do-it-yourself software or online 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 South Dakota:
No, in South Dakota, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.
However, South 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 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.
Yes. In South 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 software and online will 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.