Creating a Rhode Island Will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island wills and in assigning a person (called the executor in most states) to administer a Rhode Island last will and testament after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements for a Rhode Island 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: A Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island last will and testament must be in writing to be valid.
Beneficiaries: A Rhode Island 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. Handwritten wills must be witnessed to be valid. Although Rhode Island law recognizes a handwritten will, state laws can be very particular regarding handwritten wills. Handwritten wills that are not properly witnessed are invalid in Rhode Island
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, Rhode Island laws allow you to dispose of your property as you wish.
Other Purposes of Wills:
Our Rhode Island wills form may be used to designate a guardian for any minor children.
Our Rhode Island wills form may be used to create a trust and designate a trustee to handle an estate (property left after death) on behalf of children or others.
Our Rhode Island 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.
A one-half share of the community property passes to the surviving spouse.
Omitted Spouse: If a will fails to name or provide for a spouse, the spouse must receive a portion of the testator's estate as provided by Rhode Island law, unless it appears either from the will or from other evidence that the omission was intentional.
Omitted Child: If a will fails to name or provide for a child, the child must receive a portion of the decedent's estate as provided by Rhode Island law, unless it appears either from the will or from other evidence that the omission was intentional.
Providing for Pets
Rhode Island law currently does not have specific statutes pertaining to providing care for pets. However, the testator may specify a beneficiary to be the new "guardian" of a pet companion. Legalzoom's Rhode Island wills form gives you the choice of providing for your pets in this manner.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Will
A Rhode Island will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island probate laws.
Revoking a Will
A Rhode Island will and testament, or any part thereof, can be revoked:
1) By a subsequent will that revokes, or partially revokes, the prior will expressly or by conflicting or different parts;
2) 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; or
3) By either the testator's subsequent marriage or divorce to the extent that the marriage or divorce causes inconsistency in the will, unless the will was written in contemplation of the upcoming marriage or divorce.
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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island last will.
Every estate may be subject to federal and Rhode Island death taxes, depending on the value of assets included in the taxable estate. The federal tax is based on the value of assets in the taxable estate. The Rhode Island estate tax is equal to the state death tax credit allowed on the federal tax return. Filing a Rhode Island 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. Generally, if no federal estate tax is due, then no Rhode Island estate tax is due either.
It is extremely important to make a Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island state laws.
For example, without creating a valid will, if you die leaving a spouse, 2 children, and no parents with the following:
$1,000 in administrative costs
$10,000 in debt
$2,000 in funeral expenses
$50,000 in the bank
An automobile gift from your great-uncle
The net estate here would be $37,000 in cash, the house, and the automobile as separate property. Your surviving spouse would get a life estate in the house, and your children would each have title to 1/2 of it equally, if you owned this real property separately. After payment of taxes, debts &expenses, all personal assets such as the automobile and cash would be half owned by the spouse, and the children would get a 1/4 share each.
If you make a Rhode Island will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.