There are certain laws in place regarding the steps that must be taken to create a valid last will, and they vary to some extent state-by-state, but there are general rules of thumb.
We practice law in the state of North Dakota. The person who is stating his or her final wishes in the will is called the testator. In our state, and in every state, the testator must be an adult who is of sound mind, and there can be no coercion or intimidation involved in the signing of the will.
Under North Dakota state laws, the signing of the will must be witnessed by at least two competent adults, and these witnesses must also sign the document.
Self Proving Will
If you use a last will as your asset transfer vehicle, you would name an executor in the will. After your passing, the executor would admit the will to probate, and the probate court would supervise the administration of the estate.
The court is charged with the responsibility of determining the validity of the last will. This is an important part of the process, because interested parties could contend that the will was not valid.
In North Dakota, a will could be valid even if it is not notarized. However, the court would have to seek out the witnesses to make sure that the signing of the will did take place under legally acceptable circumstances. This can prolong an already time-consuming process.
To speed things up, you could make the will a self proving will. This could be done if you obtain a self proving affidavit from a notary. The witnesses would have to accompany you when you go to the notary to obtain the self proving affidavit.
When a will is a self proving will, it would be deemed valid by the court, and the court would not have to contact the witnesses.
This is a basic framework, but you should take pause before you decide to go it alone. There are websites on the Internet that sell generic do-it-yourself last wills, but the highly respected magazine Consumer Reports has advised against DIY estate planning after hearing feedback from three prominent legal professors.
Schedule a Free Consultation
If you would like to create a last will or any other estate planning document with the benefit of professional guidance, our firm would be glad to assist you. We offer free consultations, and you can send us a message through our contact page to set up an appointment: Grand Forks ND Estate Planning Attorneys.