A Guide to Wills In the State of New Hampshire

A will, which is referred to as one’s “last will and testament”, assists New Hampshire state residents in providing for, and protecting, their assets and their loved ones. Wills are used for:

  • Designating the organizations or individuals one would like to leave their property to
  • Naming personal guardians to care for minor children and other dependents
  • Designating an executor of the estate, who is the individual that will ensure the terms of a will are carried out.

Although the creation of a will is not required under New Hampshire state law, it is a critical component of the estate planning process, and residents are strongly encouraged to create one.

What Happens If Someone Dies Without Creating a Will?

In the state of New Hampshire, if an individual dies without creating a valid will, then their financial assets and property will be distributed in compliance with New Hampshire intestacy laws. First and foremost, financial assets will be used to satisfy any obligations that are owed to creditors. The assets and property that are left over will then be distributed to the remaining closest relatives, starting with spouses and children. If a spouse or children cannot be located, then living parents or grandparents will become the beneficiaries of the estate.

If parents or grandparents cannot be located, then the list will extend to an increasing distant list of relatives, including uncles and aunts, cousins, and relatives of the decedent’s spouse. If relatives, by either blood or marriage, cannot be located, then the state of New Hampshire will assume control of the estate.

What Are the Requirements For Creating a Will In New Hampshire?

In New Hampshire, there are several requirements that must be met in order to create and finalize a will.

  1. 1)The will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses.
  2. 2)The two witnesses must also sign the will.
  3. 3)The creator of the will must be able to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of its contents.
  4. 4)The will must be created without undue duress or influence.

A will created by a New Hampshire resident remains in full legal effect until such a time that it is revoked or a new will is created to replace it. If written amendments, in the form of codicils, are added to the will, then the process will require the same witness formalities and signing as the original will’s creation.

It should be noted that, legally, New Hampshire State does not recognize wills that are holographic in nature. A holographic will is defined as one that was created in the individual’s handwriting, but does not bear any signatures by witnesses. In specific, unique situations, oral wills and testaments will be recognized under state law.

In New Hampshire, a will does not have to be notarized in order for it to be made legal. The law does enable an individual to create a will that is self-proving. If a resident does wish to follow this course of action, then he or she will need to have their will notarized. The purpose of creating a self-proving will is to speed up the probate process. Because the New Hampshire court system does not have to contact the witnesses who signed the will, the probate process is expedited. Both the creator and the witnesses will need to sign the will in the presence of a notary in order for it to become self-proving.

During the creation of one’s will, an executor will need to be named. The executor is the individual who is designated responsible for carrying out the provisions of a will. If an executor is not specifically named in a will, then the New Hampshire court system will appoint someone to the position of ensuring that an estate is settled.

The Advantages of Creating a Will

The primary advantage of creating a will is that it hastens the probate process. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, probate is defined as process by which the New Hampshire court system supervises the distribution of an estate. However, preparing a will beforehand offers a number of other advantages, including:

  • Cost – The cost of the probate process, including an attorney’s fees, can quickly become costly. This is particularly true for those who own property across multiple states. Probate proceedings for all states must be conducted. Establishing a trust can provide a satisfactory remedy to this issue.
  • Flexibility – Wills can be tailored to suit an individual’s specific requests. Although the execution of a will is a formal, legal affair, it is not difficult to make changes or alterations to the will as needed.
  • Public Record – The settlement and distribution of an estate is a matter of public record. For those with valuable estates who want to ensure that their assets and property are distributed fairly, the close scrutiny of the legal system and public eye during the probate proceedings will ensure that this is done.
  • Efficiency – Without a will in place, the New Hampshire probate process is time consuming and complicated. For larger estates, it could require several years before it is all settled. Having a will with named beneficiaries hastens the process of settling an estate.

Should a Lawyer Be Hired?

When it comes to the planning of an estate, New Hampshire residents are strongly encouraged to engage the services of a New Hampshire estate planning attorney. In this state, a resident can create their own will, in the presence of two witnesses, without having legal counsel present; however, an NH estate planning lawyer will familiarize a client with their different options and assist them in choosing the appropriate option for their estate.

In New Hampshire, the process of estate planning can be quite complicated, and it is strongly recommended that residents consult a lawyer in order to ensure that their wishes are carried out and to minimize the number of problems their loved one encounter after their passing.