Creating a will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. Vermont wills allow for any children, spouses, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with you, the testator (the person making the will), to create valid Vermont wills and to assign a person (called the executor in most states) to administer a Vermont last will and testament after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements for a Vermont Last Will and Testament:
Age: The testator must be at least 18 years old.
Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind (capable of reasoning and making decisions).
Signature: The Vermont last will and testament must be signed by the testator or by some other person under the testator's direction in the testator's presence.
Witnesses: At least 2 witnesses (who are not beneficiaries) are required for a valid Vermont last will and testament by subscribing their names to the will, or by signing an affidavit, while in the presence of the testator and at the testator's direction or request.
Writing: A Vermont last will and testament must be in writing to be valid.
Beneficiaries: A Vermont last will and testament may make a disposition of property to any person.
Other types of recognized wills:
Holographic Wills: A holographic will is one that is handwritten by the testator. Vermont law does not explicitly allow holographic wills. All Vermont wills must be witnessed as discussed above.
Nuncupative Wills: A nuncupative will is one that is made orally in contemplation of imminent death. Nuncupative wills may not pass an estate valued at more than $200.00, must be written down by a person present during the bequest and must be admitted to probate in accordance with state laws.
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, Vermont laws allow you to dispose of your property as you wish once your debts have been paid and the rights of your surviving spouse and children have been covered.
Other Purposes of Wills:
LegalZoom's Vermont wills form may be used to designate a guardian for any minor children.
Our Vermont wills form may be create a trust and designate a trustee to handle an estate (property left after death) on behalf of children or others.
Our Vermont wills form may also be used to name an executor to handle a decedent's (the person who died) property and affairs from the time of death until an estate is settled.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
Jointly owned property with the rights of survivorship automatically passes onto the survivor.
Widow's/Husband's Interest in Real Estate: A widow/husband is entitled to one-third in value of all the decedent's real estate, and if the decedent left only one surviving child and the surviving spouse is also the parent of that child, he or she shall be entitled to half in value of such real estate.
Share of after-born child: When a child of a testator is born after the making of a will and provision is not made for him in that will, that child has the same share in the estate of the testator as if the testator had died intestate, unless it is apparent from the will that it was the intention of the testator that provision should not be made for the child.
Providing for Pets
Vermont 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.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Will
A Vermont will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A Vermont 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 Vermont probate laws.
Revoking a Will
A Vermont will and testament, or any part thereof, can be revoked:
By a subsequent will that revokes, or partially revokes, the prior will expressly or by conflicting or different parts; or
By being burnt, torn, canceled, obliterated, or destroyed, with the intent and for the purpose of revoking the same, by the testator or by another person in the presence and by the direction of the testator.
Revocation of a will in its entirety revokes its codicils, unless revocation of a codicil would be contrary to the testator's intent.
Probate and Estate Taxes
Probate is a legal process for starting the transfer of property when the testator dies. The procedures validate the Vermont last will and determine ownership of the property. Property that does not pass via community property, right of survivorship, trust, or insurance is subject to probate proceedings.
After the Vermont last will is admitted at court, the executor files applications for the probate of a will and for legal documents called letters testamentary.
Several important functions of probate proceedings include:
Collecting, or taking possession of, the decedent's property.
Protecting and preserving the decedent's estate.
Paying all debts, claims and taxes.
Determining who is entitled to the assets and distributing the property according to the Vermont last will.
Vermont's estate tax is a "pick-up"tax designed to absorb the federal estate tax credit for state death taxes. No additional estate tax is imposed. The federal tax is based on the value of assets in the taxable estate. The Vermont estate tax is equal to the state death tax credit allowed on the federal tax return. Filing a Vermont estate tax return does not increase the total tax liability of the estate, but instead redirects revenues to the state which would go to the federal government.
It is extremely important to make a Vermont will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die before you make a Vermont will (or other valid will) you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict Vermont state laws.
The net estate (after paying debts, taxes, administrative costs, and funeral expenses) of a decedent is distributed to the surviving spouse and other heirs in adherence to Vermont statutes.
For example: If the decedent is married and leaves no children and the surviving spouse does not elect to take a third in value of the real estate of which the decedent dies in possession of, or waives the provisions of the will of the decedent, the spouse is entitled to the entire estate, if it does not exceed $25,000.00. However, if it exceeds that sum, then the spouse is entitled to $25,000.00 and half the remainder. The remainder of the estate then descends as the whole would if the spouse did not survive. If the decedent has no relatives who may inherit the estate, the spouse is entitled to the entire estate.
If you make a Vermont will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.