When it comes to making a will, it all boils down to understanding what your particular state requires for a will to be considered valid. While the process to make a will is similar in every state, there are differences—each U.S. state has its own distinct requirements for making a will. If you do not meet these legal requirements, the court can reject your will and it would be as if you have no will. As you start to make a will in Rhode Island, make sure you fully understand what the state law requires. When making an online will, be sure you use an online will that is customized for Rhode Island.
Can I make a will online in Rhode Island?
Yes, you can make a will online in Rhode Island. To do so, use an online will making service. We recommend USLegalWills to make a will online.
Here are the legal requirements to make a will in Rhode Island valid:
- The person writing the will (known as the Testator) must be at least 18 years of age.
- The Testator must be of sane mind.
- The will must be in writing. If you make an online will, be sure to print it out.
- The will must be signed by the Testator in the presence of two witnesses, and
- The will must be signed by the two witnesses in front of the Testator and each other.
After making an online will, you must print it out to sign it. While a few states allow electronic wills, most states still require a paper copy with physical signatures. The state of Rhode Island does not currently allow digital-only wills.
In Rhode Island, if a witness is an “interested party” (a beneficiary in the will), anything left to them in the will is voided. Both your witnesses should be “disinterested parties” to avoid any potential legal complications.
Does Rhode Island require a notarized will?
Any time a will is presented to the probate court, it has to be validated. While Rhode Island does not require you to notarize your will for it to be valid, the state does allow for a will to be “self-proved.” If you have a “self-proved” will, it speeds up the process to validate the will. With a “self-proved” will, the court can automatically accept the will as valid without having to call upon the witnesses to testify.
To “self-prove” a will in Rhode, your witnesses make a sworn statement (affidavit) attesting to the validity of your will in front of a notary public. You attach this notarized affidavit to your will.
Can I name an executor in Rhode Island?
Yes. In Rhode Island, an executor can be named in an online will. The executor is the person appointed to settle the estate, guaranteeing the will is carried out. It is a good idea to select someone to act as the executor, and you should pick someone trustworthy. In Rhode Island, if an executor is not designated in the will, the probate court will appoint one to oversee the estate.
Here are the requirements for an executor in Rhode Island:
- Must be at least 18 years of age, and
- Must be of sound mind (not judged incapacitated by a court).
Some states impose other restrictions, such as prohibiting anyone with a felony conviction to serve as an executor (Rhode Island does not prohibit this); however, the only other condition Rhode Island has is that an executor of the person you name as your executor cannot become your executor. While it sounds complicated, it just means that the same person cannot simultaneously serve as the executor of related estates.
To name an executor who lives out-of-state, there are some specific guidelines in Rhode Island:
- An out-of-state executor must name an in-state agent to accept any legal documents on behalf of the estate.
Do I need an attorney to make a will in Rhode Island?
No, an attorney is not required to make a will. However, in some situations—for example, if the estate is very large or complex—it is wise to consult an estate planning attorney. For most people, especially those with a relatively simple estate and a straightforward will, online will making is a good option. You want to make sure you use an online will making service that offers templates customized for the state. Be sure you satisfy all legal requirements for a valid will when you make a will in Rhode Island.
What types of wills are valid in Rhode Island?
Any type of will which meets the federal and state-specific requirements is valid in Rhode Island, whether the will is made online or not.
Can I make a holographic will in Rhode Island?
A handwritten last will and testament is known as a holographic will; it is written and signed by the person making the will with no other witnesses. Holographic wills often face challenges during the probate process, as the court has to prove the handwriting is authentic. People also often use unclear language or forget to include important provisions when they make holographic wills.
In Rhode Island, holographic wills are not considered legally binding—though the court will accept a holographic will that was made and executed in a jurisdiction that recognizes them.
Can I make a nuncupative or video will in Rhode Island?
An oral will is known as a nuncupative will. An oral will is also sometimes called a “deathbed will,” which some people wish to leave on video. Many times, they believe that if it is recorded on video, it will be enforced. However, most states do not recognize nuncupative wills or have certain conditions that allow them. Like holographic wills, nuncupative wills often face legal challenges even if the court accepts them. If time and health allow, a written, witnessed, and legally binding will is much better for avoiding legal delays when settling the estate.
Rhode Island recognizes nuncupative wills only if they are made by an active duty member of the armed forces or a mariner at sea.
How Is a living will different from an online will in Rhode Island?
A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a legal document outlining medical decisions and end-of-life care instructions. A living will differs from a last will and testament; they each have different purposes, and they are two distinct documents. A living will is for medical directives whereas a last will and testament is for matters pertaining to a person’s estate. And because the last will and testament is usually not reviewed until after a person’s death and funeral, this means any medical directives left in a last will and testament are usually not known until the will is consulted. A living will also has to be properly executed with different requirements than a last will and testament for the living will to be considered legally binding.
Once you make a living will, it is your responsibility to inform your family and your medical providers. Once you have a valid living will, you should make copies of it and give them to family members, doctors, and other trusted individuals. You can create both a last will and testament and a living will online. To read more about living wills in Rhode Island, you can go here.
In Rhode Island, the general requirements for a living will are:
- You must be 18 years old and of sound mind to create a living will.
- It must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, neither of whom are related to you.
In Rhode Island, a living will is temporarily voided during pregnancy as long as a live birth is possible.
Why do I need to make a will online in Rhode Island?
If you want to distribute your estate in a certain way, you can only do that if you make a will in Rhode Island. If you own property, and especially if you have any minor children, it is extremely important that you have a valid will in place. Otherwise, the state will have to appoint guardians for any minors, name someone as the executor, and then begin to divide your estate. This can become a complex, lengthy legal process.
When someone dies without a will, each state has intestacy laws that determine what happens to their estate. Without a will, your property will be divided between surviving family members according to the intestacy distribution laws of Rhode Island. It is not uncommon for property to be held up in the probate process for months or even years at a time.
To avoid long legal complications for your family, it is best to have a will in place.
What can I include in an online will in Rhode Island?
When you make a will online in Rhode Island, you can include a variety of provisions, including but not limited to:
- Naming the executor of your estate.
- Naming a guardian for minor children.
- Naming a guardian to oversee any property left to minor children.
- Leaving property or gifts to individuals, charities, or organizing.
- Distributing your estate in a specific way to family or non-family.
- Naming a trusted person to care for any remaining pets.
- Designating who receives family heirlooms and sentimental items.
- Designating who receives other personal or sentimental items.
What should not be included in a will in Rhode Island?
A last will and testament is not the right place for designating end-of-life care or funeral instructions. Usually, when a person dies, the funeral arrangements are made immediately. After the funeral, the will is read and the estate is settled. If funeral instructions are left in the will, family members may not know about them until after the funeral. Any medical directives or end-of-life care stipulations left in a will are not considered legally binding.
For medical directives and end-of-life care, you want to make a living will. Be sure to follow all the requirements for it to be enforceable. Make sure you tell your family and your medical providers that you have a living will; make copies of it to give to the relevant people.
To leave your funeral directions, you can talk with a family member and/or you can create a separate document that details your wishes for your funeral. Be sure to make copies of this as well, giving them to the executor of your estate and any other trusted family members.
Can I change or revoke an online will made in Rhode Island?
Whether you make your will online or otherwise, a properly executed will is a legally binding document. If you have a valid will in place, it will be enforced upon your death. However, you can change or revoke your will at any time.
You can change or revoke a will in Rhode Island by:
- Physically destroying it with the intent of revoking it,
- Ordering someone else to physically destroy it in front of you,
- Making a new will, or by
- Writing a document that states you are revoking your will, which you must finalize with the same formalities as a will.
With any change of circumstance, it is a good idea to revisit your will. Any major life change, such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, adoption, or acquisition of significant assets which change the distribution of property, or relocation to another state or country, warrants an update to your will. If you need to make major changes, it is best to revoke your current will and make a new one. However, if you only have minor changes to a will you need to make, you can instead add a codicil to your will. A codicil is an amendment with the changes that you attach to your will; you must finalize a codicil the same way as a will.
It is important to note that in Rhode Island, if you get married after making a will, that will is automatically revoked. And if you divorce, any provisions left to your former spouse are also automatically revoked. This is why it is important to revisit your will after any change in your circumstances.
How do I finalize an online will in Rhode Island?
If you make a will online, you must print it out. And after you make a will in Rhode Island, you want to take these steps to finalize it:
- Sign it in front of two witnesses, and
- Have your witnesses sign it in front of you and each other.
To make a will “self-proved” in Rhode Island, you need a notarized affidavit from your witnesses. Attach this affidavit to your will.
Be sure to consider these special considerations in Rhode Island:
- Estates valued at $10,000 or less can use a simplified probate procedure.
USLegalWills is our recommendation for an online last will and testament. Their pricing is fair and the process of making an online will is easy. You can also create a Living Will. USLegalWills offers a free service to document funeral wishes and save final messages for loved ones.