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Last will and testament document laying on a desk.

A will establishes your distribution plan. It can be as simple as “all to my spouse if they survive; otherwise, to my children in equal shares, per stirpes.” The plan can also have specific bequests, such as, my shot gun and 4-wheeler to my son, my mother’s wedding ring to my daughter and $2,000 to each of my grandchildren. The following are common questions regarding wills.

Can I use a will I found on the internet?

Obviously, an attorney would recommend that you see an attorney, but that is not required. If you want to do-it-yourself, go to the Probate Judge’s office and get a copy of an Alabama will that has already been probated (the internet will may be from Minnesota and not include Alabama’s self-proving language).

Do I have to leave anything to my spouse?

Alabama provides for an “elective share” allowing a spouse not included in the decedent’s will to elect against the estate and receive the lesser of one-third of the estate or the entire estate less their separate estate. In other words, you can disinherit a rich spouse but not a poor spouse.

Who will take care of my children?

In a will you can appoint a guardian (individual to take care of the child) and/or a conservator (individual who takes care of the child’s money). If you do not appoint a guardian, and one is required, the Court will appoint a guardian.

Does my will direct the disposition of all my assets?

Your will directs the disposition of your probate assets, even those acquired after you wrote your Will. It does not direct the disposition of anything with a beneficiary designation (life insurance, retirement plans, transfer of death accounts, etc.), property owned jointly with right of survivorship, a life estate or property held in a trust.

Mom left you the house. Do you have to pay off the loan?

If you are left an asset that is collateral for a loan (typically a car or house) you take the asset subject to the loan.

Who may contest a will and why?

Only persons named in the will or those who would receive property under the Intestacy Statutes have standing to contest a will. A will is valid unless the testator/testatrix is less than 18 years of age or not “of sound mind.”

What are the results of a will contest?

Either the testator was of sound mind and the entire will is valid or the testator was not of sound mind and none of the will is valid. You cannot challenge a single paragraph in a will, e.g. dad promised me the truck.


*This is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice or recommendations.

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