Alabama Last Will & Testament Information
By Ruth Sturdy
In Alabama, the creation of a will allows you to leave your assets to your relatives, spouse, children, friends and those beloved pets following your death. If you wish, you may also leave your assets or donations to charitable organizations.
Some of the benefits of a last will and testament in Alabama include the ability to name a legal guardian for children who are not 18, and even create a trust for the care of your pets.
It is important to note that a will has to be filed with the probate court within five years of the testator’s death.
Some basic requirements of an Alabama Last Will & Testament are the following:
- The testator must be eighteen years old or older.
- They must also be of ‘sound mind’.
- The Will must be signed by the testator or by someone else in their name (provided it is done under the testator’s direction and in their presence).
- The signing of the Will requires at least two witnesses in order to make it valid.
- Another requirement to make the Will valid is that it must be in written format.
If you die before creating a will, you are ‘intestate’. In Alabama, this means that the spouse is to inherit the deceased assets entirely, if there are no surviving parents or children. Important to note that the spouse is always entitled to a share, the amount of this is decided by the state law.
Did you know…
- Half of all divorces (51%) in Alabama end amicably.
- 11% of Alabamians include their ex’s in their last will & testaments.
- 1/5 do not know if their spouse has included them in their will.
Alabama state law does not state who you can leave your property to, however, there are rules dictating who you cannot exclude from your will – your spouse. Your spouse is entitled to an elective share of your estate. This means that if you do not include them in the document, they are able to claim a certain portion of the estate anyway. If you cut them out, they can reject its terms and either accept one-third of your estate OR your entire estate after the subtraction of non-marital property.
In Alabama, you do not have to have your will notarized (attested by a notary) to make it legal.
You can, however, make your will self-proving, which does require the service of a notary. A self-proving affidavit is a document attached to a will that is signed by the will-maker and their witnesses, attesting that it is valid and authentic. Note that although it is not necessary to include such a self-proving affidavit, it may help quicken the probate process.
If you need to probate a will document in the state of Alabama, you should do so as quickly as possible, as wills are not effective unless filed for probate within 5 years of the testator’s death here. Note that if a will is not filed within 12 months (1 year) from the date of death, it could be rendered invalid in terms of purchasers of assets. This means that those who purchase assets in good faith may retain the good title, despite if they would have been granted to another person in the will. If you conceal a last will and testament, this is considered fraud and the probate court might force it to be produced.
To probate means ‘to prove’ in simple terms. This probate process is easier if the will document has been self-proved under Alabama state law (ie. if accompanied by a self-proving affidavit). Note that if a will is self-proved, no further evidence is required in order to be proved in probate court. If the will is not accompanied by a self-proving affidavit, the lawyer in charge has to obtain a testimony from at least one witness in the document. This is a relatively simple process so long as the witness is still alive, can be located and is also willing to cooperate with the lawyer.
Click here if you have any questions about creating a last will in Alabama.