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Vermont Last Will and Testament

Written by our Legal Team

A Last Will and Testament (also simply called a “will”) is a legal document. It states your wishes for your property and minor children (if any) for after you pass away. It’s also where you name a personal representative to be in charge of settling your affairs.

The legal requirements for making a will in Vermont can be found in 14 V.S.A. § 1. See below for the basics.

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Making a Will in Vermont

Vermont Will Requirements

To make a valid will in Vermont, certain legal requirements must be met. There are requirements for both the person making the will (called a “testator”), and for the will itself.

Testator Requirements

Regarding testators, the law says:

A person of age and sound mind may devise, bequeath and dispose of his estate, real and personal, and of any right or interest which he has in any real or personal estate, by his last will and testament, and the word “person” shall include a married woman. 14 V.S.A. § 1.

Sound mind generally means that you’re aware of your actions when creating the will. More specifically, it means that at the time the will is made, you understand that you’re creating a will, the nature of the property you own, and to whom you’re leaving your property. Even a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s may be deemed to have a sound mind, if lucid at the moment of signing. If a testator believes there might be any doubt as to his or her mental capacity at the time of the signing, a letter from a doctor affirming mental competence generally can be included with the will.

Will Requirements

Regarding the will itself, the standard requirements are set forth in 14 V.S.A. § 5.

The law says:

A will shall not pass any real or personal estate, or charge or affect the same, unless it is in writing and signed by the testator, or by the testator’s name written by some other person in the testator’s presence and by the testator’s express direction, and attested and subscribed by two or more credible witnesses in the presence of the testator and of each other.

Although there are various exceptions and special rules, these are the standard requirements for Vermont wills.

Do I need an attorney to make a will in Vermont?

No. An attorney is not required to make a will in Vermont. For the vast majority of people, an attorney will simply do the same things that a good will-making software does — ask you questions and then create documents for you based on your information and wishes. However, in certain situations it is a good idea seek legal advice from an attorney, like if you have a child with special needs, or if you have a high net worth (around $10 million) and are concerned about federal estate taxes. In these cases, an attorney can help you navigate special questions and create a proper plan.

What if I have an old will in place?

Vermont law handles old wills in two ways. First, if you have an old will in place, you can cancel it by creating a new one. A good will usually contains a statement that it revokes (cancels) any prior wills. Second, a will can be cancelled simply by physically destroying it. 14 V.S.A. § 11.

Do I need to file my will?

Under Vermont law, a will must be filed with the court within 30 days after the death of the testator. 14 V.S.A. § 103. So, after you pass away, your will should be filed in your local probate court by the person named to be your personal representative (also called an “executor” or “administrator”). This will begin the legal process known as “probate” through which your wishes are carried out under court supervision.

In the meantime, store your will in a safe place and make sure the right people know where to find it. Note: It is not a good idea to store a will in a safe deposit box, because accessing the safe deposit box can depend on getting court approval, and getting court approval can depend on what the will says!

Are there limitations on how I can leave my property?

You can generally leave your property however you want. However, if you are married, your spouse is entitled to some portion of your property (unless a formal agreement was made). Most married individuals leave everything to their spouse anyway, so this usually doesn’t present a problem.

Some wills leave everything in a bundle, while others break out specific gifts for specific people. Some leave everything in equal shares, and others say that everything should be sold and the proceeds distributed in specific percentages.

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