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FAQs About Wills & Estates

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Learn about who can make a will, how they can be changed, and what makes a will legal in the state of Connecticut.

What is a will?

A will is a legal document in which a person directs how that person’s property should be distributed at death.

Who may make a will?

Any adult (18 years of age or older) who is of sound mind and memory may make a will. There is no requirement that one have a certain amount of property or money. A probate law attorney, or a lawyer that deals with wills, can help in preparing wills to ensure that your property is distributed to the people who you want to receive it and not to those you don’t.

What makes a will “legal” in Connecticut?

To be “legal,” a will must be in writing and be signed by the person who is making it (the “testator”). A will must be witnessed by two uninterested adults. While it is not required that a will be drafted by an attorney, doing so will assure the testator that the document is accurate and conforms to the requirements of the law.

Must a will be written in Connecticut to be valid here?

No. The will may be drafted and signed anywhere as long as the basic requirements in the jurisdiction where the will was signed are followed.

Is there a time limit for wills? Do wills “expire”?

No. Once written a will is good forever, a will does not expire. However, there are events in one’s life that can make the will invalid unless appropriate steps are taken. Typically the marriage of the testator or the divorce of the testator “revoke” the will by operation of law. Executing a new will also "revokes" the older document.

What if one dies without a will?

A person who dies without a will is said to have died intestate. There are a series of rather complex laws that will determine how that person’s property is distributed. In most cases the property will pass to the spouse and children, then to parents, next to siblings and on down. If no relatives can be located, the property will go to the State. Additionally, the individuals who are responsible for handling the deceased’s property will be selected by the Probate Court.

What is an executor or administrator?

The executor is the person you select to handle your property on your death and to carry out the directions left in your will. The executor will work with the Probate Court and under its supervision in completing his tasks. Once the property in the will has been distributed, the executor’s job is done. An administrator is someone appointed by the Probate Court if you do not have a will. The duties of the administrator are similar to those of the executor.

What is a trustee?

A trustee is a person or institution named to handle the assets left for the benefit of a minor child or some other person needing assistance. Frequently, the trustee hires professional help to do this. One only needs to name a trustee if a trust is being created in the will or in a separate document.

In deciding who the trustee should be, one should attempt to select someone with good common sense and whose judgment can be trusted. Also, try to select someone young enough to able to manage a trust that may run for many years

What is a “living will” and how does it differ from a Last Will and Testament?

A living will is not really a will at all because it operates while the maker is still alive. It is a written statement of the maker’s wishes regarding the removal of life support systems for the terminally ill or for someone determined to be in a permanent vegetative state. Although the closest family members would normally have the authority to make the decision, having a living will is very often of much comfort to those family members because it states clearly what the maker wanted to happen in those circumstances.

Can wills be changed once written?

Absolutely. A will can be altered or revoked at any time. It is important that any changes be done with the same formality of procedure as the original will in order to be valid. It is also most important to destroy former wills when new ones are completed. Although the most recent will would control, it is dangerous to have more that one will in existence in case the “wrong” is found and probated rather than the replacement will.

The information in this article should not be construed as legal advice. It is for general informational purposes only. No attorney client relationship is created by this article. If you have specific questions about a legal matter, you should schedule a free and confidential consultation with our office by calling (203) 238-1010 or filling out our online contact form.