State-Specific Online Wills Guide
Did you know that an estimated 50-60% of Americans don’t have a last will and testament? Most of these people have never made a will because they don’t want to think about death, don’t have the time or money to visit a lawyer to make the document, or believe that they don’t have enough property to need a will at all. If you still don’t have a will, you’re taking a major risk and likely causing significant stress for your loved ones down the line. By making a will, you can ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your death. Plus, a will allows you to appoint guardians for your children and other dependents, choose an executor of your estate, and leave instructions for your funeral proceedings. Wills are not only useful, they are also inexpensive and easy to make without leaving your home thanks to the rise of numerous online will making websites.
Estate Laws in Different States
If you’re considering making a last will and testament, you should remember that each US state has its own estate planning laws, which govern how a will should be made and executed, among other things. These laws are, in turn, interpreted by probate courts in each state. As a result, you need to make sure that you follow all the procedures legally required by your state when making a will. If a probate court rules that you didn’t fulfill all the requirements when creating a will, your assets will be distributed according to the standard estate laws of your state, which may be completely different from your wishes.
Find out how to make a will in Texas and what requirements last will and testament documents have to follow in that state. Discover if you can make a Texas will without an attorney.
Discover what requirements California law imposes for last will and testament documents. Learn how to make a legal online will in California.
Everything you need to know about making a will in Illinois. Read our guide on the Illinois estate laws, will requirements, and online will creation
Learn about the requirements for making a last will and testament in Florida on this page. Get all the information you need to know about Florida wills.
Discover everything you need to know about making a will in Pennsylvania. Find out how to make a legally valid online will in Pennsylvania in our guide.
Get all information you need to know about making a last will and testament in New York on this page. Read our guide to New York will forms.
Learn how to make a last will and testament in New Jersey. Get all the information about New Jersey wills in our guide.
Things That Wills in All States Have in Common
While the requirements for making a last will and testament differ among states, there are some laws that are the same.
- Legal competency – the testator (person making the will) should be “of sound mind” and understand what he or she is doing at the time of writing the document.
- Testamentary intent – by creating a will, the testator should intend to specify how his or her assets should be distributed after death.
- No lawyer necessary – there are no states that require you to hire a lawyer to make a will, which means you can save time and money by making a will online.
- Signature – the testator has to sign the will to finalize it and make the document valid. Some states also allow a proxy to sign the will on behalf of the testator and in his or her presence.
- Appoint an executor – all states allow you to appoint an executor of your estate who will ensure that your final wishes are followed.
- Appoint guardians – each state allows testators to appoint guardians for their underage children and other dependants in their wills.
- Change or revoke the will – all states allow testators to amend or revoke their wills at any point. Keep in mind that it’s best to create a new will instead of just revoking the old document.
Will Requirements That Differ Among States
- Testator’s age – in most states, the testator has to be over 18 years of age to be able to create a will. However, some states allow emancipated minors, military personnel, and people who are married or have been married at some point in their lives to create a will even if they are younger than 18.
- Witness signatures – most states require wills to be signed by two witnesses who are not listed as beneficiaries in the document, although states such as Colorado and Louisiana also require a Notary Public to sign the will.
- Will format – some states only accept typewritten wills as valid, while others also accept holographic (handwritten) wills or even digital documents. As of 2021, no states accept blockchain wills, but things are likely to change in the near future.
- Marital property rules – each state has either community property, common law, or elective community property rules regarding marital property. These laws can have a significant amount of influence over how your assets can be distributed after your death. In some cases, if you live in a community property state, the laws of the state can override your will.
Do I Need to Change My Will If I Move to a Different State?
If you move to a different state, it’s best to create a new will that fully accounts for the requirements of your new home state. While your old will may still be valid in the new state, there are certain issues that may arise, so it’s best to update your entire suite of estate planning documents.
One of the most common issues you may face when moving to a different state without changing your will is that your new state has different marital property rules. If you move from a common law state (each spouse has independent control over their own property) to a community property state (property acquired during marriage is co-owned equally) or vice versa, there will be significant changes as to what you and your spouse legally own. These changes should be reflected in your new will.
Some states also have specific requirements as to who can serve as a will executor. For instance, Florida laws require executors to be related by blood or marriage to the testator, or be a Florida resident. So if you appointed a friend as the executor and then moved to Florida, but your executor stayed in your home state, he or she will not be allowed to serve as the executor if you die in Florida.
Final Words About Estate Laws in Different States
Each state in the USA has its own laws that govern estate planning documents. When creating a last will and testament, power of attorney, and other documents, you need to make sure that you follow your state’s requirements regarding these documents. While some requirements for making a will are identical in all the states, others differ depending on where you live. To find out exactly what your state’s requirements for making a will are, read about state-specific will laws here on our website.