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How to Make a Will in Nebraska FAQ

Written by: Catherine Hodder, Esq. , Senior Legal Writer
Reviewed by: Jordan Walker, J.D. , Legal Writer
Last updated May 08, 2024

A last will and testament is a critical part of any estate plan. A will allows you to determine who manages your estate, who inherits your property, and who cares for your minor children. But how do you make a valid will in Nebraska? We have the answers to your frequently asked questions.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What If I Die Without a Will in Nebraska?

People die ” intestate ” when they pass without a will. A Nebraska probate court follows intestacy laws to see who inherits their property. If there is a surviving spouse and children, they receive the estate. If no spouse or child exists, it goes to the next of kin, such as parents, siblings, grandparents, nieces, nephews, etc. If there is no next-of-kin, the state receives the assets.

What Does a Will Do?

A will allows you to decide who manages your estate, how to distribute your property, and who cares for your children. In your will, you can do the following:

  • Name a personal representative or executor to handle your estate. They locate your will and assets, submit the will to the probate division of the district court, and follow the instructions in your will
  • Give away specific items of personal property and real property (real estate)
  • Name loved ones and family members to inherit your property (your beneficiaries)
  • Appoint guardians for minor children if necessary
  • Name caregivers for pets and put aside funds for their care
  • Make charitable gifts

Since you make these decisions in your will, a probate court doesn’t have to sort it out, saving time and money in a Nebraska court.

What Doesn’t a Will Do?

While your will transfers many kinds of property to your beneficiaries, some assets transfer differently. These are known as non-probate assets. Instead, they transfer according to the terms of their own legal documents. These non-probate assets may include:

  • Funds in payable-on-death or transfer-on-death bank accounts
  • Proceeds from life insurance or annuities (to named beneficiaries)
  • Retirement accounts, pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs, and Keoughs
  • Property owned as joint tenancy with right of survivorship
  • Property owned by trusts, including living trusts and irrevocable trusts

Making sure you have named beneficiaries on all your non-probate accounts and assets keeps them out of probate court. You can name a backup beneficiary if your primary beneficiary dies before you. Any assets or accounts without a beneficiary go to your estate for a probate court to distribute.

Who Can Make a Will in Nebraska?

Under Nebraska law, the person making a will, called the testator, must meet the following requirements.

  • Age: A testator is at least 18 years of age.
  • Sound Mind: A testator is of sound mind, meaning they understand they are making a will, the property they own, who their natural heirs are, and how a will disposes of their property.

The testator must have a sound mind at the time they sign their will. Nebraska residents with concerns about whether they can make a will should consult an estate planning attorney for legal advice.

Does Nebraska Have a Statutory Will?

No. Nebraska does not require or provide a particular will form. You can hire an attorney to draft one or do it yourself with online resources to create a will conforming to Nebraska laws.

What Types of Wills Does Nebraska Accept?

Most wills are typed or printed and signed by the testator. However, other types of wills may or may not be acceptable in Nebraska.

  • Handwritten Will: A handwritten or holographic will is known as a will that the testator writes in their own handwriting without any witnesses. Under Neb. Rev. Stat. 30-2328 of the Nebraska Revised Statutes, Nebraska only accepts holographic wills if the material provisions are in the testator’s handwriting and the testator signs and dates their will.
  • Oral Will: Nebraska does not recognize oral wills, wills that are spoken aloud by the testator.
  • Electronic Will: An electronic will is a will written and stored electronically or signed, witnessed, or notarized through electronic methods. Currently, Nebraska does not allow electronic wills.

Although you could use a handwritten will, you may want a printed or typewritten will to avoid confusion about your handwriting and, ultimately, your wishes.

Can I Make My Own Will in Nebraska?

Yes. Nebraska allows you to make your own 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 is that you can easily update it when you want. For example, if there is a death of a beneficiary, a birth of a child, or a divorce, you can revoke your original will and create a new one.

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How Do I Make My Will Valid in Nebraska?

The state of Nebraska has specific requirements for making a valid will.

  • Signature: The testator must sign the will or direct someone to sign it for them in their presence.
  • Witnesses: Two competent witnesses must witness the testator signing the will or the testator’s acknowledgment of the testator’s signature. A competent witness is one who can act as a witness to a will. Avoid using interested witnesses. An interested witness is a witness who may benefit from the will. Interested witnesses do not invalidate your will, but at least one witness should be disinterested, or the interested witness may only claim an amount of the elective share they might receive if the testator died without a will.
  • Notary: You do not need a notary for your will. But if you want to use a self-proving affidavit, you need a notary public’s services.
  • Self-Proving Affidavit: Nebraska allows a self-proving affidavit to attach 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 Nebraska?

No. You cannot disinherit your spouse unless they waive their rights to your estate through a pre-marital agreement. In Nebraska, a surviving spouse may claim an elective share of your estate. An elective share is a portion of a decedent’s estate (after payment of allowances, claims, and debts) that a spouse may claim if left out of the will. This elective share is similar to what they would receive if you died intestate.

Can I Disinherit My Children in Nebraska?

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. A court may determine that you left out your child’s name by mistake and possibly award them an intestate share of your estate.

What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Nebraska?

A will is a great first step in your estate plan. A will gives you peace of mind and helps your loved ones after you pass. However, other estate planning documents may benefit you and your loved ones during your lifetime.

  • Power of Attorney. A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint someone you trust as your agent to make financial decisions for you. You may want this in the case of an incapacity or even for convenience. Your agent has a fiduciary duty to act in your best interest. You determine what powers to grant your agent and when your agent’s authority begins and ends.
  • Health Care Directive. A health care directive, living will, or advance medical directive, allows you to specify what life-prolonging measures you do (or don’t) want if you face a terminal illness or end-of-life condition. In Nebraska, you can also designate a healthcare surrogate or agent to make medical decisions for you when you can’t. If you don’t make these decisions in a living will, the burden is on your loved ones to figure out what you want.

Fortunately, making a valid will and creating other Nebraska estate planning documents is easy with online estate planning templates.

Still not sure what estate planning tools you need?


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