Authored By: Legal Services Alabama LSC Funded

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a will? +

  • Yes. You need a will if you are an adult of sound mind with any money or property.
  • If you and someone else own all of your property jointly, that person will get the property even if you do not have a will. However, what happens if that person dies before you or the same time you do?
  • You have a special need for a will if you have minor children. If you die while they are minors, someone will have to hold your property for them until they become adults.

How does having a will help me? +

  • It lets you decide who will get your property when you die.
  • It lets you name who handles your estate.
  • It makes it easier to administer your estate. No one has to keep going to Court asking for permission to do simple things such as sell property.
  • It makes it cheaper to administer your estate.
    • You can avoid the need for your executor to post a bond. You can also keep your executor from having to file an inventory or from having to pay to appraise your property.
    • You can avoid the extra costs from having to go to Court often for approval.
  • It avoids delays in getting your property to your heirs.
  • It lets you decide who holds property that you give to your children (or your grandchildren) until they are adults.

What if I don't own much of anything? +

  • You may need a will more than someone with money. Otherwise, the extra expenses from not having a will may use up most of the little you have.
  • If you have absolutely nothing of value, and you know you never will, you do not need a will.

Can I wait until I am old? +

  • If you wait until you are in bad health, someone might be able to challenge your will.
  • If you wait, you may die before you get around to writing a will.

What happens if I don't make a will? +

  • A Court will distribute your property according to what the law says.
  • If you have minor children, the Court would have to name a guardian for them. The guardian's pay would come from your estate.

How do I get a will? +

  • While many forms exist to help individuals complete their own paperwork, wills and estates can be very complex and diverse. No single form could account for the many different situations and property for every person. You should make an appointment with a qualified lawyer.
  • If you try filling out printed forms, you are likely not to put in the words you need to use to avoid some costs and to give your executor the powers he or she needs.
  • A lawyer can also ask you the important questions to make sure that the will meets all your needs.

What makes a will valid? +

  • A will must be in writing. It should be typed or printed.
  • The person signing the will must be 18 or older and be of sound mind.
  • It must be dated, signed and also witnessed by at least two people.
  • The witnesses must be adults.
  • To avoid problems later, you should use witnesses likely to be alive and in the area when you die.

How long is my will good for? +

  • A valid will is good until you change it or revoke it.
  • Sometimes, changes in the law can prevent your will from doing what you want.
  • Changes such as marriages, births and divorces can also give you reasons for wanting to change your will.
  • You should review your will whenever changes happen to see if it still meets your needs and wishes. It is a good idea to review your will from time to time anyway.

Can I change my will? If so, how? +

  • Yes. You can make a "codicil" to your will to make minor changes. You have to have a codicil property witnessed.
  • If you are making more than a minor change or two, you should make a new will. Making a new will revokes the old will.

Reviewed April 2016


AlabamaLegalHelp.org offers legal information, not legal advice. We try hard to make sure this website accurately explains your rights and options. However, the site does not apply the law to your personal facts. For this sort of legal advice, you should call a lawyer. To apply for free legal services in Alabama, call the Legal Services Alabama office that is closest to where you live OR call toll-free 1-866-456-4995. You can also apply online at intake.alsp.org.

Last Review and Update: Mar 18, 2004