Creating a will is an essential part of estate planning allowing you to distribute your assets as you wish. In Wyoming, you must follow specific state laws to make a valid will. This article answers frequently asked questions about Wyoming wills.
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What If I Die Without a Will in Wyoming?
A person dying without a will is considered dying “intestate.” As such, a probate court must follow state intestacy laws determining who inherits your estate. You may not like the result. Under the Wyoming code, if you have a spouse or children, your estate passes to them. Otherwise, it goes to your next of kin, such as your parents, siblings, etc. So if you have a life partner but are unmarried or you have a stepchild that you have not adopted, they do not inherit anything. And if the court cannot find your family members, your estate goes to the state of Wyoming.
Also, if you have minor children, a court decides on child custody without your input.
What Does a Will Do?
A last will and testament is a legal document in which you state your wishes about who manages your estate, inherits your assets, and cares for your young children. In your will, you can do the following:
- Name a personal representative or executor to administer your estate, file your will and death certificate with the clerk’s office of the county court, and file final tax returns
- Identify specific personal property and real property (real estate) to give to your beneficiaries
- Name beneficiaries to receive the remainder of your assets
- Appoint guardians for your young children
- Name caregivers for your pets and provide funds for their care
- Make charitable donations
When you have a will, you streamline the probate process, saving your family and loved ones time and money.
What Doesn’t a Will Do?
While you can leave property and assets in your will, there are other assets you own that do not pass by a will. These “non-probate” assets, accounts, and policies transfer to the beneficiaries you name. These accounts and policies may include the following:
- Funds in transfer on death bank accounts and investment accounts
- Proceeds from life insurance policies and annuities to named beneficiaries (other than your estate)
- Pensions, retirement accounts, 401(k)s, IRAs, and Keogh accounts
- Any property owned in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship
- Any property in revocable living trusts or irrevocable trusts
It is a good idea to check the beneficiary designations on your accounts and policies. And name a backup beneficiary in case your primary beneficiary dies before you. Any assets or proceeds without a beneficiary go back into your probate estate. Keeping these assets out of your probate estate may allow you to qualify as a small estate (estates valued at less than $200,000) for a simplified probate process.
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Does Wyoming Have a Statutory Will?
No. Wyoming does not provide a specific state form for a will. You can either do it yourself or hire an attorney. Many people use online estate planning tools to create a will conforming to Wyoming laws.
What Types of Wills Does Wyoming Accept?
There are different ways to make a will, but Wyoming only accepts certain formats. Knowing what types of wills that Wyoming recognizes is a good idea.
- Handwritten Will: A holographic will is a will written entirely by the testator and signed without any witnesses. Wyoming allows holographic wills only if the will is entirely in the handwriting of the testator and signed by the testator.
- Oral Will: An oral will or spoken will, called a nuncupative will, is not allowed in Wyoming. Wyoming only recognizes written wills.
- Electronic Will: An electronic will is a will created, signed, witnessed, or notarized by electronic methods. Wyoming does not recognize electronic wills at this time. However, under state statute § 2-6-112 witnesses can use audio-visual communication technology to witness a testator’s signature.
Most wills are printed or typed with witnesses to the testator’s signature. A simple handwritten will without witnesses may be subject to challenges based on fraud or undue influence.
Can I Make My Own Will in Wyoming?
Yes. You can create your own will in Wyoming. If you have a simple estate and know what property you own and who you want to give it to, you can make your own will. A benefit of doing it yourself with using will formation services such as Trust & Will is that you can easily customize and update your will. For example, if you have a new child or a death in the family, you can easily revoke your old will and make a new one. However, if you have a complex estate with concerns about estate taxes or have a dependent with special needs, you may want to contact an estate planning attorney.
How Do I Make My Will Valid in Wyoming?
To make your will valid in Wyoming, you must follow their state requirements.
- Signature: The testator signs their will or directs someone in their presence to sign it for them.
- Witnesses: At least two competent witnesses must see the testator sign their will. Wyoming prohibits interested witnesses, meaning witnesses who receive something in the will unless there are two other competent disinterested witnesses to subscribe to the will.
- Notary: A testator does not need a notary to attest to their signature. But you need a notary if you want to use a self-proving affidavit.
- Self-Proving Affidavit: A self-proving affidavit is a statement you attach to your will in which the testator and witnesses swear before a notary that they signed the will and met all the requirements. This affidavit lets the personal representative submit the will to probate court without getting the witnesses to testify.
Can I Disinherit My Spouse in Wyoming?
No. Unless they renounce their rights to your estate through a pre-marital or post-marital agreement, you cannot disinherit your spouse. The surviving spouse may receive an elective share if you leave them out of your will. An elective share is a part of a decedent’s estate that a spouse may claim if left out of the will. The surviving spouse may also receive a homestead allowance, exempt property and family allowance.
Can I Disinherit My Children in Wyoming?
While a child does not have the right to inherit from their parents, if a child is born or adopted after the signing of the will, they may receive an omitted child’s share, similar to an intestate share. If you want to specifically disinherit a child, you may want to state it in your will along with the reason.
What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Wyoming?
A will gives you peace of mind and makes things easier for your family after you die. But you should consider other estate planning documents that are helpful 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 when you are unable. For example, if you are incapacitated or traveling. 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 name someone to make health care decisions on your behalf if you cannot. You can also leave instructions about life-sustaining treatments and end-of-life care you may or may not want. If you don’t leave your wishes, your loved ones have the burden to make these decisions for you.
Fortunately, making a valid will and creating other Wyoming estate planning documents is easy with online estate planning templates.