Your last will and testament is the number one way that you can express your final wishes and make sure that your heirs receive what you want them to. You can also use a will to name someone as the guardian of your children and choose the executor of your estate.

A will has to be properly prepared. If your will is deemed invalid, it’s the same as dying “intestate,” without one. In Alabama, wills may be written out by hand. However, your will is only valid when you sign it in front of two competent people. Those people must  then sign the will as your witnesses.

While your witnesses can be your heirs, it’s generally better to choose people who have no invested interest in your estate. That way, other heirs or people who assumed they would be heirs will be less likely to have doubts about the legitimacy of your will and choose to contest it.

A will does not have to be notarized, but doing so allows it to be “self-proving,” and that can make it easier for the will to move through probate. Any prior will that you may have created will also be considered revoked once you create a new will that either contradicts your previous directives or contains clauses that create inconsistencies. You can also revoke a prior will by intentionally destroying it.

Nobody enjoys contemplating their own mortality. However, it’s always wise to take steps to help ensure that your family is protected after you’re gone. If you’re ready to start working on your estate plan, find out how an attorney can help.