A last will and testament is an important legal document to help your family and loved ones when you die. To make a valid Vermont will, you must follow certain procedures and Vermont law. We have the answers to your frequently asked questions about making a will in the state of Vermont.
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What If I Die Without a Will in Vermont?
If you do not make a will in Vermont, you are “intestate,” meaning without a will. A probate court follows Vermont intestacy laws to distribute your property among your family members according to state law. So your property goes to your spouse, children, and next of kin. But if the probate court can’t locate your heirs, your estate goes to Vermont.
What Does a Will Do?
A will gives the probate court instructions on how you want your estate handled. In your will, you may do the following:
- Name someone to manage your estate (your personal representative or executor)
- Name beneficiaries to receive your personal property and real property (real estate)
- Name someone to care for your minor children (your guardian)
- Name someone to care for your pets
- Make charitable donations
If you do not make these decisions, it is up to the court to make them for you. A will speeds up the probate process, saving your loved ones time and money.
What Doesn’t a Will Do?
Some assets, such as bank accounts and life insurance policies, don’t pass through your will. These assets go to your beneficiaries by transfer-on-death beneficiary designations accounts or named beneficiaries on policies such as the following:
- Bank accounts
- Investment accounts
- Retirement accounts such as IRAs, Keoghs, 401(k)s
- Life insurance
Make sure you have the correct beneficiary and backup beneficiary (in case the primary beneficiary dies before you) on your account and policies. The proceeds become part of your probate estate if you do not have a beneficiary for these accounts and policies.
Who Can Make a Will in Vermont?
The person making a will, called a “testator,” must be of a certain age and have testamentary capacity, meaning a sound mind.
- Age: A testator is 18 years of age or older.
- Sound Mind: A testator must have a sound mind. A sound mind means the testator is aware they are making a will, understands what property they own, who their natural beneficiaries are, and know the effect of signing a will.
A testator must have testamentary capacity when they make and sign the will. Vermont residents with questions about if they can make a will may want to consult an estate planning attorney for advice.
Does Vermont Have a Statutory Will?
No. Vermont does not offer a template to make your will. Many people who want to do it themselves opt for online estate planning solutions to create their will. The advantage is that they can make a new will whenever they have a life change, such as a death in the family, the birth of a child, or divorce. Such life events may prompt you to change your personal representative, beneficiaries, or guardians. It is easier to revoke your old will and make a new one than add a codicil or amend it.
What Types of Wills Does Vermont Accept?
Vermont only admits certain types of wills into probate. It is helpful to understand the following types of will and if they are acceptable to the court.
- Handwritten Will: A handwritten or holographic will is a will that the testator writes in their own handwriting but does not have any witnesses attesting to their signature. Under the Vermont statutes, a handwritten will is acceptable if handwritten by the testator and executed with the same formalities as required in Vermont.
- Oral Will: Vermont does not allow oral or spoken wills. All wills must be in writing.
- Electronic Will: An electronic will is creating, signing, or witnessing a will using two-way audio-visual technology. Currently, Vermont does not allow electronic wills.
Even though you could handwrite your will, a probate court might misunderstand your handwriting. Generally, the best type of will is printed, signed by the testator in front of two witnesses.
Can I Make My Own Will in Vermont?
Yes. Vermont allows you to make your own will in Vermont. You don’t have to use an attorney to draft a will unless you want to. You can create your will if you have testamentary capacity and know how you want to distribute your estate. Many people use self-help solutions, such as FindLaw Legal Forms and Services, to make their will. However, if you have a specific type of case where you have a significant net worth and need specialized tax planning or a child with special needs and want a living trust, you may wish to seek legal advice.
How Do I Make My Will Valid in Vermont?
Vermont has specific requirements for signing and witnessing your will. You must comply with the following Vermont laws to make a valid will:
- Signature: You must sign your will; if you cannot, you may direct someone else to sign for you in your presence and the presence of your witnesses.
- Witnesses: Two credible witnesses must witness your signing of your will or your acknowledgment of your signature on your will.
- Interested witnesses: An interested witness stands to inherit your property by a will. Many states do not allow interested witnesses to attest to a will. Any gift to an interested witness is void, so using disinterested witnesses is a good idea.
- Notary: You only need a notary for your will if you want to use a self-proving affidavit.
- Self-Proving Affidavit: An optional self-proving affidavit is a sworn statement that your witnesses sign when you make your will. They attest in front of a notary that they saw you sign your will. The benefit of using a self-proving affidavit is that your witnesses do not have to testify in probate court about your will’s authenticity.
A probate court may only honor your will if you follow the state requirements.
Can I Disinherit My Spouse in Vermont?
No. You cannot completely disinherit your spouse or party of a civil union unless they sign a waiver of their right to an elective share of your property. An elective share is a portion of a decedent’s estate that they may claim if left out of the will. The surviving spouse may also receive rights to the homestead and rights to request household goods and furnishings.
Can I Disinherit My Children in Vermont?
Generally, you can disinherit any children over the age of 18 in your will. However, you must expressly state you are disinheriting them in your will. If you leave them out of your will, the probate court may view them as an omitted child by mistake and allow them an intestate share.
What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Vermont?
Having a will is important for your loved ones after you die. However, other estate planning documents help you and your family during your life.
- Power of Attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document where you appoint someone you trust as your agent to make financial decisions for you. A power of attorney is a helpful document if you are out of town and an important one if you are suddenly incapacitated. Your agent has a fiduciary duty to act in your best interest. You decide the powers to grant your agent and when their authority begins and ends.
- Health Care Directive. A health care directive or living will allows you to give instructions for your end-of-life care and treatment, including life-prolonging measures. You can also name a healthcare agent in your health care directive. Your healthcare agent is in charge of your medical decisions and receives information from providers about your condition. It is helpful to outline these decisions in a health care directive so your loved ones don’t have to decide what you want.
Fortunately, making a valid will and creating other Vermont estate planning documents is easy with online estate planning templates.