Creating a last will and testament is crucial in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) after your death. Connecticut wills give the testator, the person writing the will, the opportunity to ensure that a spouse, children, other loved ones, and even pets are taken care of after his death. You may also choose to leave property or make other gifts to charitable organizations through your Connecticut will.
In contrast to a last will and testament, a living will dictates instructions to be followed should you become incapacitated and incapable of making decisions regarding your health and medical care. A living will would take effect during a person’s life if necessary, while a last will and testament does not take effect until after the testator’s death. Connecticut explicitly allows living wills.
Do you need a last will and testament?
Although a last will and testament is not legally required, without a will, state laws (called laws of intestacy) will determine the distribution of the deceased’s assets. The outcome may not coincide with the decedent's (the person who passed away) wishes, however, which means it is generally advisable to create a last will and testament.
One of the greatest benefits of having a last will and testament is that it allows the testator to choose the personal representative of the estate, the person who will be responsible for carrying out the wishes contained in the will; in the absence of a will, the courts would make the decision for you.
A testator can use a will for various purposes, but the most important is to express how assets such as real estate, vehicles, business holdings, and family heirlooms, should be divided upon the testator’s death. A Connecticut last will and testament can also allow you to name someone as the legal guardian of your children.
Moreover, in addition to testamentary trusts (trusts that provide a benefit for people), Connecticut law specifically allows for the creation of a trust for the care of animals alive during the settlor’s lifetime (“pet trust”). Such a trust terminates upon the death of the last surviving animal and must designate a “trust protector” to act on behalf of the covered animals. A Connecticut will gives you the option of caring for your animals after your death in this manner.
Before the terms of a will can be accepted, the will must be proven in probate court. Probate is the court-supervised process of distributing the estate of a deceased person. Once the will is proven valid in probate court, the executor can then pay off any debts and taxes owed by the estate and then distribute the testator’s property according to the will.
The executor of a Connecticut must apply for admission of a will to probate and can proceed with winding up the estate, including paying off debts and taxes and distributing property, thereafter.
Small estates in Connecticut, those with a value of $40,000 or less, may be eligible to pass directly to heirs and bypass the probate process, but they must meet the strict requirements of Connecticut probate law.
Intestacy: Dying without a will
Someone who dies without a will is called “intestate,” which invokes the laws of intestacy. In Connecticut in the absence of a will, a surviving spouse inherits everything from an estate only if there are no children or descendants of the decedent and that spouse or surviving parents. If there are such descendants, the spouse inherits the first $100,000 of the estate and 1/2 of the balance while the descendants inherit the rest. If the decedent leaves behind both a spouse and parents but no children, the spouse inherits the first $100,000 and 3/4 of the balance while the parents inherit the rest.
If there is no surviving spouse, children, or parents, Connecticut laws of intestacy grant the deceased’s estates to siblings, then grandparents, and so forth; the closer the relative, the higher the priority to inherit.
As you can see, if you would like to have control over the distribution of your assets and avoid the application of intestacy laws, it is crucial that you have a valid Connecticut will.
Exceptions to ability to distribute property
Not all property you own can be distributed through a Connecticut will. For example, property that is owned in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship cannot be devised by will. The beneficiary of a life insurance policy may also not be changed through a will.
Note that even if a spouse is excluded from a will in Connecticut, a surviving spouse is entitled to a 1/3 elective share of the decedent’s estate.
Form a last will in Connecticut
The basic requirements for a Connecticut last will and testament include the following:
- Age: The testator must be at least 18 years old.
- Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind.
- Signature: The will must be signed by the testator.
- Witnesses: At least two witnesses must sign a Connecticut last will and testament in the presence of the testator in order for it to be valid. The witnesses must sign after witnessing the testator sign the will.
- Writing: A will must be in writing to be valid.
- Beneficiaries: A Connecticut will may dispose of property to any beneficiary. If a beneficiary who is not also an heir to the testator has served as a witness to the will, the bequest to that person will be void.
Other types of recognized wills
Connecticut does not recognize holographic (handwritten) or nuncupative (oral) wills created within the state, but such wills created in another state according to its laws may be admitted to probate in Connecticut.
Changing a Connecticut last will and testament
A Connecticut last will and testament may be changed at any time before the testator’s death through a new will or a codicil, which is an addition or amendment that must be executed with the same formalities as a will in order for it to be valid.
Revoking a Connecticut last will and testament
A Connecticut will may be revoked at any time by the testator by a later will or codicil or by “burning, cancelling, tearing or obliterating it by the testator or by some person in the testator’s presence by the testator’s direction.”
Note that in Colorado, if a testator gets divorced after executing a will, any provisions in favor of the ex-spouse are revoked by operation of law.
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