Making a will in Connecticut protects your loved ones and your assets after you die. You control who manages your property, who receives your estate, and who cares for your minor children. You may not know how to start a Connecticut will. We have the answers to your frequently asked questions.
Table of Contents
- What If I Die Without a Will in Connecticut?
- Who Can Make a Will in Connecticut?
- Does Connecticut Have a Statutory Will?
- What Types of Wills Does Connecticut Accept?
- Can I Make My Own Will in Connecticut?
- How Do I Make My Will Valid in Connecticut?
- Can I Disinherit My Spouse in Connecticut?
- Can I Disinherit My Children in Connecticut?
- What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Connecticut?
What If I Die Without a Will in Connecticut?
If you die without a will, you die “intestate.” A Connecticut probate court distributes your estate according to state intestacy laws. Typically, a decedent’s estate goes to their family members and next of kin. For example, in Connecticut, if a decedent dies without kids but has a spouse, the spouse receives the first $100,000 plus three-quarters of the decedent’s property. The remainder goes to the decedent’s living parents. Suppose you have a significant other but are not married or you have stepchildren that you did not yet adopt. They would not stand to receive any of your assets.
And if the state does not locate your next of kin, your assets become property of the state of Connecticut.
What Does a Will Do?
A Connecticut last will and testament allows you to direct how you want your estate managed. You leave instructions on how to distribute your property and who cares for your family members. In your will, you can do the following:
- Appoint a personal representative or executor to handle your estate. They locate your will and assets, submit the will to the probate court, and follow the instructions in your will
- Identify and give away personal property and real property (real estate)
- Name loved ones and family members as beneficiaries to inherit your property
- Appoint guardians for your young children if necessary
- Name caregivers for pets and put aside funds for their care
- Make charitable bequests
Because you made these decisions in your will, you don’t leave it to the state to distribute your assets. A will streamlines the probate process, saving time and court fees.
What Doesn’t a Will Do?
While your will transfers many kinds of property through a will, some assets transfer differently. These are known as non-probate assets. Instead, they transfer according to the terms of their own legal documents. The assets go to named beneficiaries, those people you choose to receive them. These may include:
- Funds in payable-on-death or transfer-on-death bank accounts and investment accounts
- Proceeds from life insurance or annuities (to named beneficiaries)
- Retirement accounts, pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs, and Keoughs
- Property owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship
- Trust property, including property owned by living trusts
Making sure you have named beneficiaries on all your non-probate accounts and assets keeps them out of probate court.
Who Can Make a Will in Connecticut?
A person making their will is called a testator. Connecticut law has specific requirements for who can be a testator.
- Age: A testator is 18 years old or older.
- Sound Mind: A testator must have a sound mind meaning the testator knows and understands that they are making their will.
The testator must have a sound mind at the time they sign their will. Connecticut residents with concerns about if they can make a will should consult with an estate planning attorney for legal advice.
Does Connecticut Have a Statutory Will?
No. Connecticut does not provide a statutory will, meaning a set form you must follow. You may create your own will or hire an attorney. Many people seeking self-help solutions use online resources such as FindLaw Legal Forms and Services.
What Types of Wills Does Connecticut Accept?
Most wills are typed or printed and signed by the testator. However, other types of wills may or may not be acceptable in Connecticut.
- Handwritten Will: A handwritten or holographic will is one entirely written and signed by the testator without witnesses. Connecticut does not accept holographic wills of this type. But the will is valid if a will is handwritten and signed in front of two witnesses according to state law.
- Oral Will: Connecticut does not recognize oral or spoken wills, called nuncupative wills. All wills must be in writing.
- Electronic Will: An electronic will is a will written and stored electronically or signed, witnessed, or notarized through electronic methods. Currently, Connecticut does not allow electronic wills.
Although you could use a handwritten will with witnesses, you may want a printed will to avoid confusion about your handwriting and your wishes.
Can I Make My Own Will in Connecticut?
Yes. Connecticut allows you to make a will. You do not have to use an attorney to draft your will. If you have a simple estate, know what property you own and who you want to receive the property, then you are ready to make your will. The benefit of using an online will drafting service such as FindLaw Legal Forms and Services is that you can easily update when you want. For example, if there is a death of a beneficiary, birth of a child, or divorce, you can revoke your original will and create a new will.
How Do I Make My Will Valid in Connecticut?
To make sure your will is valid in Connecticut, you must comply with the probate laws. Your will should meet the following requirements:
- Signature: The testator must sign their will at the end of the document.
- Witnesses: Two witnesses must sign the will in the testator’s presence. Avoid using interested witnesses, meaning a witness that could inherit from your will. Although it does not invalidate your will, any gift to an interested witness is void unless they are your heir or you have two additional disinterested witness signatures to theirs.
- Notary: The testator does not need a notary to attest to their signature unless using a self-proving affidavit.
- Self-Proving Affidavit: Connecticut does not require a self-proving affidavit, but you may consider attaching one to your will. A self-proving affidavit is a statement you and your witnesses sign attesting that you signed the will. This signed and notarized affidavit makes a will self-proving, so your witnesses do not have to testify in court as to the will’s authenticity.
Can I Disinherit My Spouse in Connecticut?
No. You cannot disinherit your spouse unless they waive their rights to your estate through a pre-marital or post-marital agreement. In Connecticut, a surviving spouse may claim an elective share of your estate. An elective share is a part of a decedent’s estate that a spouse may claim if left out of the will. This elective share is a life estate of one-third of your probate property left after payment of all estate debts.
Can I Disinherit My Children in Connecticut?
Your children do not have a right to inherit from you. If you want to disinherit a child, you should state it expressly in your will with your reasons for doing so. A court may determine that you left out your child’s name by mistake. And after signing your will, if you have a child born or adopted or born as a result of artificial insemination consented to by you, those children may receive an intestate share of your estate. That is one reason why you want to update your will periodically.
What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Connecticut?
While a will is a helpful tool to administer your estate during probate proceedings, other estate planning documents help you during your lifetime.
- Power of Attorney. A power of attorney allows you to name someone you trust as your agent to handle your financial transactions and pay bills. They have a fiduciary duty to act in your best interests. You may do this for convenience if you travel frequently or only when you are incapacitated and can’t manage your finances. You decide what powers to grant and when the power of attorney begins and ends.
- Living Will. A living will or advance medical directive allows you to specify what life-sustaining measures you want or don’t want when you have an end-stage illness or terminal condition. You may also name someone to receive your medical information and make health care decisions if you cannot.
Fortunately, making a valid will and creating other Connecticut estate planning documents is easy with online estate planning templates.