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.

Special Issues for Alaskans: Special Protections for Family Members


Preparing Your Will


Preparing Your Will

Special Protections For Family Members

Recognizing the importance of the nuclear family, the law provides special inheritance rights for spouses and children which can supersede the terms of your Will. These special inheritance rights are called:

  1. the elective share
  2. the homestead allowance
  3. exempt property allowance; and
  4. the family allowance.

The court will oversee the exercise of these special inheritance rights, which are summarized below. If you have specific questions of how these allowances work, you should contact an attorney.

The Elective Share

If you fail to include your spouse in your Will, or your spouse is not satisfied with what you left, he or she may choose the "elective share" (also known as the “forced share”). The elective share entitles him or her to 1/3 of your "augmented estate", no matter what your Will provides. Your "augmented estate" includes everything in your estate after your death, except the homestead allowance, exempt property, and family allowance. Determining exactly what property is in your augmented estate can be a very complex process and usually requires the assistance of an attorney.

If special circumstances exist, your spouse can sign a statement giving up his or her right to the elective share. This can only be done after your spouse has been told, and understands, what he or she is giving up, and agrees to it in writing.

The Homestead Allowance

Your spouse is entitled to a homestead allowance of $27,000 from your estate. If your spouse has died, the allowance will be divided among your dependent minor children. The allowance can be taken from the sale of land or personal property. If money or other general assets are available to pay the allowance, it will not be taken from items or gifts specifically mentioned in your Will. Otherwise, the homestead allowance will take priority over all other claims against the estate.  

Exempt Property

In addition to the homestead allowance, your spouse (or your children, if you have no surviving spouse) is entitled to a $10,000 “personal property exemption” taken from your household goods, motor vehicles, and personal effects.

If $10,000 worth of personal property is unavailable, your surviving spouse (or children) is entitled to receive this amount from other property. If money or other general assets are available, this amount will not be taken from items or gifts specifically mentioned in your Will.

The Family Allowance

In addition to the homestead allowance and exempt property, your spouse and minor or dependent children are entitled to a “family allowance” of money from the estate for their maintenance while the estate is being probated. The maximum amount provided under this allowance is $18,000

Total Family Protections

As a result of these special family protections, a surviving spouse is entitled to receive the first $55,000 of your estate free and clear of all creditor claims:

$27,000 (homestead) + $18,000 (family) + $10,000 (property)  = $55,000

Last Review and Update: Mar 21, 2017
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