Creating a will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. North Dakota wills allow for any children, your spouse, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with the testator (or the person making the will) in creating valid North Dakota wills and in assigning a person (called the executor in most states) to administer a North Dakota last will and testament after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements for a North Dakota Last Will and Testament:
Age: The testator must be at least 18 years of age.
Capacity: The testator must be of sound (capable of reasoning and making decisions) mind.
Signature: A North Dakota last will and testament must be signed by the testator or in the testator's name by some other individual in the testator's conscious presence and by the testator's direction.
Witnesses: A North Dakota last will and testament must be signed by at least two individuals, each of whom signed within a reasonable time after witnessing either the signing of the will or the testator's acknowledgment of that signature or acknowledgment of the will.
Writing: A North Dakota last will and testament must be in writing to be valid.
Beneficiaries: A North Dakota last will and testament may make a disposition of property to any person.
Other types of recognized wills:
Holographic wills: Under certain requirements provided by North Dakota laws, a handwritten will may be recognized. However, the legal requirements for a handwritten will are specific and need to be strictly followed in order to deem the will valid.
Distribution of Property:
A will is a legal document created by you to determine how your property, known as your estate, is distributed after your death. Your estate consists of assets and property including bank accounts, homes, land, furniture, automobiles, and securities (stocks and bonds). In general, North Dakota laws allow you to dispose of your property as you wish.
Other Purposes of Wills:
LegalZoom's North Dakota wills form may be used to designate a guardian for any minor children.
Our North Dakota wills form may be used to name an executor (also called a personal representative or administrator) to handle a testator's property and affairs from the time of death until the estate is settled.
Our North Dakota wills form may also be used to pass on property to a charity.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
Property owned in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship automatically passes onto the surviving owner.
A beneficiary in a life insurance policy may not be changed through a will.
If a spouse is excluded from the will, the surviving spouse may take a portion (an "elective share") of the estate within a certain period of time as allowed by North Dakota laws.
Providing for Pets
North Dakota law currently does not have specific statutes pertaining to providing care for pets. However, the testator may specify a beneficiary as the new owner of a pet. Legalzoom's North Dakota wills form gives you this choice of providing for your pets.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Will
A North Dakota will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A North Dakota will and testament can be changed through a codicil, which is a document stating additions or changes to the original will. Codicils must be executed in accordance with North Dakota probate laws.
Revoking a Will
A North Dakota will and testament or any part of a will is revoked:
1) By creating a subsequent will in accordance to North Dakota laws that revokes the previous will or part of the previous will, or includes different terms than in the previous will.
2) By performing a revocatory act (includes burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying the will or any part of it) on the will, if the testator performed the act with the intent and for the purpose of revoking the will or part or if another individual performed the act in the testator's conscious presence and by the testator's direction.
Probate and Estate Taxes
After the testator has died, probate procedures prove the validity of the North Dakota last will, pay off debts and taxes of the estate, appoint a personal representative to administrate the will, and distribute property as designated in the North Dakota last will.
According to the Office of State Tax Commissioner:
"The estate tax is a tax on the value of an estate transferred at death. North Dakota's estate tax is perpetually "federalized". North Dakota's definition of a deceased person's "taxable estate" is identical to the federal definition and North Dakota recognizes all federal exemptions and deductions. North Dakota's estate tax is equivalent to the credit for state death taxes allowed on the federal estate tax return (or a percentage of that credit equal to the percentage of property located in North Dakota). On the federal return, the credit for state death taxes is allowed as a credit against the federal tax liability. The estate pays the amount of this credit to the state. This method of determining state estate taxes ensures that estates pay no more in total estate taxes than the estate's federal tax liability. The tax is payable without interest for 15 months from the date of death."
It is extremely important to make a North Dakota will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict North Dakota laws.
For example, your spouse will receive the entire estate if you have no surviving parents or descendants. If you leave no surviving spouse and only children, then your children will share the estate in equal amounts.
If you make a North Dakota will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.