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Estate Planning State Laws

State laws may provide additional rights and benefits to individuals coping with cancer. Various laws related to employment, disability insurancehealth insuranceCOVID-19accessing medical recordsestate planningother cancer-related state laws, and immigration are included below. Please note that this information changes frequently, so check back for up-to-date information.

This chart includes the state laws that provide benefits and protections in the areas of estate planning. More information about creating a valid will is included below the chart.

StateWritten/Oral/ StatutoryNumber of Witnesses RequiredNotarization RequiredProbate Process: UPC/Non-UPCHas Statutory Will FormState Allows for Remote Execution of Estate Planning Documents
ALABAMAWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://www.abn.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/2020-04-02-Fifth-Supplemental-SOE_COVID-19.pdf;
ALASKAWritten2Self-Proving
ARIZONAWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://insurance.az.gov/executive-order-2020-26-remote-online-notary-services
ARKANSASWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://governor.arkansas.gov/images/uploads/executiveOrders/EO_20-12.__.pdf
CALIFORNIAWritten/Statutory2Not requiredxhttp://www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/CAStatutoryWillForm_ab_1986_bill_20100715_chaptered.pdf
COLORADOWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/rule_making/files/2020/20200330NotaryNoticeTempAdopt.pdf
CONNECTICUTWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://portal.ct.gov/-/media/Office-of-the-Governor/Executive-Orders/Lamont-Executive-Orders/Executive-Order-No-7Q.pdf?la=en
DELAWAREWritten2Self-Proving
*DISTRICT OF COLUMBIAWritten2Not required
FLORIDAWritten2Self-Provingx (effective July 1, 2020)https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=_h0409er.docx&DocumentType=Bill&BillNumber=0409&Session=2019
GEORGIAWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://gov.georgia.gov/document/2020-executive-order/04092001/download
HAWAIIWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://governor.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2003219-ATG_Executive-Order-No.-20-02-distribution-signed.pdf
IDAHOWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://www.nationalnotary.org/file%20library/nna/reference-library/state-law-summaries/idaho.pdf
ILLINOISWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/news/law-updates/il-guidance-on-remote-online-notarization-2020
INDIANAWritten/Oral (I.C. 29-1-5-4)2Not requiredxhttps://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-other-2020-20S-ms-236.pdf
IOWAWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://governor.iowa.gov/press-release/gov-reynolds-signs-new-proclamation-continuing-state-public-health-emergency
KANSASWritten/Oral (K.S.A. 59-608)2Self-Provingxhttps://governor.kansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/EO-20-20-Executed.pdf
KENTUCKYWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/20RS/sb150.html
LOUISIANAWritten2Required in addition to witnesses
MAINEWritten/Statutory2Self-Provingxhttp://legislature.maine.gov/statutes/18-C/title18-Csec2-517.pdfxhttps://www.maine.gov/governor/mills/sites/maine.gov.governor.mills/files/inline-files/EO37.pdf
MARYLANDWritten2Not requiredxhttps://governor.maryland.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Remote-Notarizations-3.30.20.pdf
MASSACHUSETTSWritten2Self-Proving
MICHIGANWritten/Statutory2Self-Provingxhttp://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(cdhuhhkfgz0ngz2tn4yfjsjk))/documents/mcl/pdf/mcl-700-2519.pdfxhttps://www.michigan.gov/whitmer/0,9309,7-387-90499_90705-525178--,00.html
MINNESOTAWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://www.sos.state.mn.us/notary-apostille/notary-help/remote-online-notarization-authorization-faq/
MISSISSIPPIWritten/Oral2Self-Provingxhttps://www.sos.ms.gov/content/executiveorders/ExecutiveOrders/1467.pdf
MISSOURIWritten/Oral2Self-Provingxhttps://www.sos.mo.gov/library/reference/orders/2020/eo8
MONTANAWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://leg.mt.gov/bills/2019/billhtml/HB0370.htm
NEBRASKAWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://sos.nebraska.gov/sites/sos.nebraska.gov/files/doc/OnlineNotary_EmergencyRule_Regulations_Chapter%209.pdf
NEVADAWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://www.leg.state.nv.us/NRS/NRS-133.html#NRS133
NEW HAMPSHIREWritten/Oral (only for soldiers; N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 551:15)2Self-Provingxhttps://www.governor.nh.gov/news-media/emergency-orders/documents/emergency-order-11.pdf
NEW JERSEYWritten2Self-Proving
NEW MEXICOWritten/Statutory2Self-Provingxhttps://willforms.org/wp-content/uploads/New-Mexico-Last-Will-and-Testament-Form.pdfxhttps://www.governor.state.nm.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Executive-Order-2020-015.pdf
NEW YORKWritten/Oral (limited to military NY CLS EPTL § 3-2.2)2Self-Provingxhttps://www.governor.ny.gov/news/no-2027-continuing-temporary-suspension-and-modification-laws-relating-disaster-emergency
NORTH CAROLINAWritten/Oral (limited N.C.G.S. § 31-3.4)2Self-Provingxhttps://www.sosnc.gov/imaging/dime/webportal/55573846.pdf
NORTH DAKOTAWritten2Self-Provingxhttps://www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/t44c06-1.pdf#nameddest=44-06p1-13p1
OHIOWritten/Oral (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2107.60)2Not requiredxhttp://codes.ohio.gov/orc/147
OKLAHOMAWritten/Oral (limited to military Okla. Stat. tit. 84 § 84-46)2Self-Provingxhttps://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/news/law-updates/ok-senate-bill-915
OREGONWritten2Self-Proving
PENNSYLVANIAWritten2Self-provingxhttps://www.dos.pa.gov/Documents/2020-04-02-Remote-Notarization.pdf
*PUERTO RICO
RHODE ISLANDWritten2Self-provingxhttps://www.sos.ri.gov/divisions/notary-public/remote-online-notarization
SOUTH CAROLINAWritten2Self-proving
SOUTH DAKOTAWritten2Self-provingxhttps://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/news/law-updates/sd-house-bill-1272
TENNESSEEWritten/Oral (Tenn. Code Ann. § 32-1-106)2Self-proving (for wills executed prior to July 1, 2016, see Tenn. Code. Ann. § 32-1-104(b))xhttps://publications.tnsosfiles.com/pub/execorders/exec-orders-lee26.pdf
TEXASWritten/Oral (only if made before September 1, 2007)2Self-provingxhttps://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-temporarily-suspends-certain-statutes-to-allow-for-appearance-before-notary-public-via-videoconference
UTAHWritten2Self-provingxhttps://notary.utah.gov/2019/10/22/remote-notary-law/
VERMONTWritten/Oral (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 14 § 1-6)2Not requiredxhttps://sos.vermont.gov/media/mixppvcq/emergency-rules-remote-notary-final-2020-0324.pdf
VIRGINIAWritten2Self-provingxhttps://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title19.2/chapter1/section19.2-3.1/
WASHINGTONWritten/Oral (limited to military. Wash. Rev. Code § 11 12-025)2Self-provingxhttps://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/proclamations/20-27%20-%20COVID-19%20Notary%20%28tmp%29.pdf
WEST VIRGINIAWritten2Self-provingxhttps://apps.sos.wv.gov/adlaw/executivejournal/readpdf.aspx?DocID=89564
WISCONSINWritten/Statutory2Self-provingxhttps://law.marquette.edu/assets/community/pdf/mvlc_bb_handout5.pdfhttps://www.wisbar.org/NewsPublications/Pages/General-Article.aspx?ArticleID=27577
WYOMINGWritten2Self-provingxhttps://soswy.state.wy.us/Services/Docs/Guidance-on-Temporary-Remote-Online-Notarization.pdf
GUAM

 How to Create A Valid Will

A will is a legal document that provides instructions for what an individual would like to have happen to their property upon death. A will is also a place where parents can name a guardian for any minor children or adult children with developmental disabilities. Each state has different rules about how to create a valid will, the chart below outlines various state rules.  There are different types of wills:

  1. Written: Most states require that:
    1. Your will be in writing;
    2. You be of “sound mind;”(“Sound mind” generally means that you have an understanding of what you are doing.)
    3. You sign the will; and
    4. It be witnessed by an “uninterested party.” Some states may require two witnesses, that the witnesses are present when you sign the will, or that the will be notarized. A state either requires a will to be notarized, doesn’t require a will to be notarized, or if you do notarize a will it will be self-proving. A self-proving will means that if it is notarized, the probate court will accept it as the true will of the person who has died.  An “uninterested party” generally means someone who is not getting anything in the will.
  2. Statutory: Some states (California, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, and Wisconsin) have a statutory will form, which can be filled in with the details of your estate plan and your wishes. Will forms are free and you don’t have to hire an attorney. But, they can’t be customized, so they are better for simpler estates.
  3. Oral: Generally, oral wills are only allowed in very limited and unusual circumstances (e.g., statements made on one’s deathbed).

There are several do-it-yourself will options, if you have a relatively simple estate, or cannot afford an attorney. There are online services, books, and computer software that can cost anywhere between $35-$200. You may also want to consider hiring an estate planning attorney, especially if you have a complicated estate. When an attorney helps you create a will, you will typically be charged a flat fee or an hourly rate. How much it will cost depends on factors such as the size of your estate or how complicated your wishes are. There are legal aid organizations that provide free or low-cost legal services for people with low and moderate income levels. Visit http://TriageCancer.org/Resources/StateResources, for legal resources in your state.

Probate

When someone dies (the decedent), the estate must be probated. Probate is the process through which a court supervises the gathering and distribution of the decedent’s property. Each state has a slightly different probate process; however, they generally fall into two categories: Uniform Probate Code (UPC) and non-UPC.

The main benefit of the UPC is a transition from mandatory court proceedings for probate to less formal, paper-driven processes.

If someone has a will, the estate must first pay the decedent’s debts and funeral and estate administration expenses then any remaining property is distributed according to the terms of the individual’s will. Executor named in the will distributes property.  The executor must be approved by the probate court before the executor has authority to handle the affairs of the estate and property distribution.

Consequences for Not Having A Will

If someone dies without a will their property will be distributed according to the state’s intestacy statute.  The intestacy statute is a ranking system of family members who inherit from the decedent’s estate. Each state has a different set of rules with respect to intestacy. Once the estate has paid all of the decedent’s debts, funeral, and estate administration expenses, then the probate court follows the state’s intestacy statute to determine how the property should be distributed. In doing so, the court hopes at least to come close to what the average deceased person wants.

Intestacy laws vary greatly from state to state. Typically, there is a ranking system where the decedent’s surviving spouse and/or children have priority over any other surviving relatives.