Preparing Your Own Will

An attorney is the best person to help you write your Will, but if no attorney is available you can write your own Will. This Classroom goes over the basics of what a will does, how your property would be distributed if you don't have a will, describes the contents of each section in a standard will, and provides Alaska specific information that is important to consider if writing your own will. A sample will is provided at the end of the classroom that can be used as a guideline in writing a will for yourself.

Introduction to Wills: Glossary (Wills)


A statement that is sworn to and signed in front of a notary, postmaster, or other authorized person.

Your share of ownership in a corporation created pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act 

A legal process that voids a marriage. If a marriage is annulled, it is as though it never existed.

An item of value.

A person authorized to give legal advice and to practice before a court of law.

A legal term referring to all of the property you own at the time of your death. It does not include funeral and administration expenses, homestead allowance, family allowances, exempt property, and enforceable claims.  The augmented estate also includes money or assets that you transferred for the benefit of someone other than your spouse during the two years before your death, if (1) the combined value of the money or assets was worth more than $10,000 in either of the two years preceding death, and (2) you got less than it was worth in return.

A person who receives a benefit or advantage. For example, a person you name to take your property in your Will. The person to whom your insurance policy is payable or the person for whom your property is held in trust.

Money posted by the Personal Representative as a guarantee to protect the estate. The larger the estate, the more money needs to be posted. The law requires that a bond be posted, unless it has been waived in the Will. If the Personal Representative is someone you know and trust, we generally recommend that people waive this requirement. 

An agency of the federal government that administers the probate process for Native trust property, such as allotments and restricted townsite lots.

An amendment or change to a Will.

A person or business to whom you owe money.

A person who has died.

The act of depriving a child or other relative of the right to share in your estate. Intentionally leaving someone out of your Will.

A non-relative witness who does not receive anything from you after your death. A person who is not mentioned in your Will.

The legal process that ends a marriage by agreement of the parties, as opposed to a contested action, which is called a divorce.

The legal process that ends a marriage through a contested court action.

The part of your estate that your spouse may choose if you have left him or her nothing or if he or she does not like what you have left in your Will. It amounts to one-third of your augmented estate.

All of your property, money, and other assets owned by you at the time of your death.

The person in charge of handling your affairs after your death. Also called a Personal Representative.

Personal property of the deceased valued up to $10,000 to which a surviving spouse is entitled. If there is no surviving spouse, then surviving offspring are entitled jointly to the same value. This will include household goods, motor vehicles, personal effects, or other property. This amount will not be taken from items or gifts specifically mentioned in your Will if money or other general assets are available.

An amount of up to $18,000 that a surviving spouse and/or minor children can claim during the first year after your death if your estate is tied up in court. If more than $18,000 is necessary and available, the court may provide more

A person who has the duty to act for another's benefit.

A person who would receive your property after you die according to the laws of intestacy.

An allowance of up to $27,000 from your estate to which your spouse (or dependent or minor children) is entitled.

To die without a Will. If you die without a Will, your property will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy, which generally result in your property going first to your spouse and then to your children

Having no legal effect

A legal term referring to your descendants.

A state-issued license that permits an individual to engage in a specific type of commercial fishing in a specific fishery. A person may not fish commercially without a limited entry permit in fisheries subject to the limited entry system

A financial planning device to avoid probate for people with very large estates.

A document that is signed by a competent person who is at least 18 years of age. It directs which life sustaining procedures are withheld or withdrawn when a person's condition is determined to be terminal. It is used when the person is not able to make his or her own decisions regarding treatment. It has no impact on how your property is handled after your death.

Land that was used and occupied by an Alaska Native for 5 consecutive years. Applications needed tobe filed prior to 1971 through a program administered by the Department of Interior. Title to the land is held in trust by the United States Government, Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Certain lands that are within a recognized Native townsite and owned by an Alaska Native in trust. Any proposed sale of this property must be approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The deed is "restricted."

A public officer whose signature and stamp verify your signature.

Generally, all property that is moveable, that is not real property.

The person responsible for handling your affairs after your death. This person used to be called the executor or executrix.

A public officer who may serve as a notary in villages where no notary is present.

A legal document that empowers another person to make decisions for you and act on your behalf. The moment you die, the power of attorney you gave to someone is no longer valid.

The process of determining whether your Will is valid.  Also, the entire process of distributing your estate after your death.

The court of law that has authority to determine whether or not your Will is valid and to oversee the probate process.

Land and any buildings on it.

To take back or make invalid.

A statement added to your Will that helps prove that the signatures are valid

A Will in which at least two witnesses took an oath, included in the Will, at the time the Will was signed, and in which both the witnesses' and the decedent's signatures were notarized by a qualified notary public.

A husband and wife holding title to real property hold it as tenants by the entirety. Upon the death of either spouse, the surviving spouse takes title to the exclusion of all other heirs.

People who are not married to each other can only hold real property as Tenants in Common. People in this situation must use a Will to transfer their share of the property to the other person.

The individual who signs a Will prepared for him or her.

Evidence of ownership. A document that proves that you own land, a motor vehicle, or other property.

An arrangement where ownership of real or personal property is given to one person to be taken care of for the benefit of another person.

Property claimed and used by Alaska Natives but held in trust by the United States government. Also, any property in a trust (held by one person for the benefit of another person or persons).

A person who is responsible or holds title to property for the benefit of another for a certain period of time

Legally effective

A document that specifies who is to receive your property after your death.

A person who watches you sign your Will, and signs it to show that he or she watched you.

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