Entering Your County & State

When making Nolo's Online Will, you are asked to specify your county and your state.

Entering Your County

Including your county in your will is optional but recommended. Including it will help others identify you and track down your property after your death.

Also, a county name may provide those handling your estate with important direction, because wills go through probate in the court system of the county where you last resided, no matter where you died. The one exception is real estate: That property is probated in the court of the county in which it is located.

When you enter your county name, use the entire name, including the word "county." For example: Kings County or County of Alameda. If you live in an area that does not use the term "county," use the term most commonly used to describe the area of your state where your city is located. For example, if you live in Healy, Alaska, you would enter "Denali Borough." If there is no county-like descriptor for the area where you live, leave this box blank.

Entering Your State

Next, you must specify the state of your legal residence, sometimes called a domicile. This is the state where you make your home now and for the indefinite future. This information is vital for a number of will-making reasons, so it is important to check your answer for accuracy.

Your state's laws affect:

  • marital property ownership
  • property management options for young beneficiaries
  • how your will can be admitted into probate, and
  • whether your property will be subject to state inheritance or estate taxes.

    Living in Two or More States

    If you live in two or more states during the year and have business relationships in both, you may not be sure which state is your legal residence. Choose the state where you are the most rooted—that is, the state in which you:

    • are registered to vote
    • register your motor vehicle
    • own valuable property—especially property with a title document, such as a house or car
    • have checking, savings and other investment accounts, and
    • maintain a business.

    To avoid confusion, it is best to keep all or at least most of your roots in one state, if possible. For people with larger estates, ideally this should be in a state that does not levy estate or inheritance taxes.

    Living Overseas in the Military

    If you live overseas temporarily because you are in the armed services, your residence will be the home of record you declared to the military authorities.

    Normally, your home of record is the state you lived in before you received your assignment, where your parents or spouse live or where you now have a permanent home. If there is a close call between two states, consider the factors listed above for determining a legal residence or get advice from the military legal authorities.

    Living Overseas for Business or Education

    If you live overseas for business or education, you probably still have ties with a particular state that would make it your legal residence. For example, if you were born in Wisconsin, lived there for many years, registered to vote there and receive mail there in care of your parents who still live in Milwaukee, then Wisconsin is your legal residence for purposes of making a will.

    See an Expert If Your Choice Is Not Clear

    If you do not maintain continuous ties with a particular state, or if you have homes in both the United States and another country, consult a lawyer to find out which state to list as your legal domicile.

    If You Move

    State laws control how you own property -- and may also affect how you leave it to other people. Be sure to update your will if you move to a different state. Learn more about Taking a Look at Your Estate Plan When You Move to a New State.