Making a Will in Vermont

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

By , Attorney

Steps to Create a Will in Vermont

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

  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.
  9. Deposit your will with the Probate Division of the Superior Court for the district where you reside, if you prefer.

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

No. You can make your own will in Vermont, 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.

What Are the Requirements for Signing a Will in Vermont?

To make a will in Vermont, you must be:

  • an individual 18 years of age or older (or an emancipated minor), and
  • of sound mind. 14 Vt. Stat. Ann. § 1.

Your will can dispose of any property you own at the time you make it and that your estate acquires after your death.. 14 Vt. Stat. Ann. § 3.

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.

How Do I Sign My Vermont Will?

To finalize your will in Vermont:

  • you must sign your will in front of two witnesses, and
  • your witnesses must sign your will in front of you and each other. 14 Vt. Stat. Ann. § 5.

It is best to use "disinterested" witnesses who don't stand to inherit anything from your will because any interested witness can lose the gift you leave them or their spouse if they sign your will as a witness. 14 Vt. Stat. Ann. § 10.

Vermont also specifically recognizes soldier wills if they contain a provision stating that they were prepared and executed in compliance with 10 U.S.C. § 1044d 14 Vt. Stat. Ann. § 7.

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

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

However, Vermont 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. 14 Vt. Stat. Ann. § 108.

Should My Will Name an Executor?

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

  • burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying all or part of your will
  • ordering someone else to burn, tear, cancel, obliterate, or destroy all or part of your will in front of you, or
  • making a new will that says it revokes the old one or that has contradictory terms to the old one. 14 Vt. Stat. Ann. § 11.

If you have two wills and it's not clear whether you revoked the old will or not, Vermont has rules that determine whether your new will revokes the old one or simply adds to it. Vermont 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, Vermont 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. 14 Vt. Stat. Ann. § 11.

While many states automatically revoke all or part of your will if you divorce your spouse after making it, a divorce in Vermont has no impact on your will. So, if you made your will during your marriage and now you're divorced, if you don't want your will to benefit your former spouse, you must 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. It is generally assumed that most states will allow them in the near future. However, Vermont currently does not allow e-wills.

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

You can find Vermont's laws about making wills here: Vermont Statutes Title 14 Decedents' Estates and Fiduciary Relations Chapter 1 Wills.

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