Vermont Wills

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Making, Changing or Revoking a Will in Vermont

The statute governing Vermont Wills is Title 14 Decedents’ Estates and Fiduciary Relationships, Part 1, Wills and Probate of Wills. All section number displayed on this page are references to this legislation.

Requirements to make a Vermont Will

  • You must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind in order to be able to dispose of your estate by a Will (§1). The section points out in particular that a Vermont Will may be made by a married woman.
  • The Will must be in writing and signed in the presence of two or more witnesses (who must sign in the presence of the testator and of each other). §5
  • Unlike other States, Vermont does not have provisions to self-prove a Will.

Who can witness a Vermont Will?

A witness must be 18 years or older. Beneficiaries will lose their interest under a Will if they or their spouse act as witness to the Will (unless they are already an heir at law or unless three other competent witnesses sign the Will). A creditor can act as a witness, even if they have a charge over estate assets (§10).

How to change your Will

Changing a Vermont Last Will and Testament simply requires making a new Will and revoking your previous one.

How can I revoke (cancel) my Will?

There are two ways to revoke your Vermont Will:

  1. In writing via a Will, Codicil or another document which is signed and witnessed in accordance with the execution requirements for Wills;
  2. By physically destroying the Will through tearing, burning or obliterating.

Note that getting divorced will nullify any gift given to your spouse in a Will, unless your Will expressly specifies otherwise (§320).

Can I deposit a Will in Vermont?

If you have no safe place to keep your Vermont Last Will and Testament, the Probate Court provides a safekeeping service. For $2.00 you can have your Will safety deposited and indexed with the Court. You will receive a Certificate of Deposit. No one from the public will have access to your Will. (§2)

Can a Vermont Will be made orally?

The Vermont Statute allows oral wills, called a ‘nuncupative will’. However, these types of wills only apply in limited circumstances and have strict conditions. It can only be used to pass personal property up to the value of $200.00. There must be a memorandum in writing made within six days of making the oral Vermont Will and written by a person who was present at the time such Will was made. It must also be presented for probate within six months of the testator’s death. It is advisable not to rely on an oral or nuncupative will for your estate. (§6)

Vermont and Military Wills: Soldier or Sailor

A will made by a soldier in military service or a seaman or mariner at sea, will be valid in Vermont if it is signed in accordance with 10 U.S.C. §1044d. The Will must also state that it was prepared pursuant that section of the United States Code.

Additional Entitlements despite a Vermont Will

Regardless of your Vermont Last Will and Testament, the statute specifies the following rights:

  • Household goods: Your spouse is entitled to your household goods such as furniture and furnishings, unless your descendants object. If there is an objection, then it’s up to the Court to determine how much of the furnishings and furniture your spouse is entitled to. The Probate Court will consider the length of your marriage or union, how you obtained the property and its sentimental and monetary value (§312).

 

  • Vehicle: If your estate consists primarily of a vessel, snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle, then your spouse is entitled to that vehicle regardless of your Vermont Will (§313).

 

 

  • Allowance for Family: The Court may order a reasonable allowance be paid to your spouse and/or your minor children who comprise your family, up until they receive their share of the estate. If the estate is insolvent, the Court may still award a reasonable allowance in priority to debts of the estate up to an eight month period. The allowance can only be paid from personal assets or income from real or personal property (§316).

 

 

  • Maintenance: Prior to any distribution to creditors, heirs or beneficiaries under a Vermont Will, the probate court can make allowance for your minor children for their necessary maintenance until they reach the age of 18 (§317).

 

 

  • Spousal Election: Your spouse may waive the provisions of your Will and instead elect to take one half of the balance of your estate (§319).

 

 

  • Descendants of a Deceased Beneficiary: If any beneficiary in a Will dies before you, then his/her descendants will be entitled to their deceased parent’s share. This applies unless your Vermont Last Will and Testament provides for an alternative disposition (§335).

 

 

  • Guardian: You may appoint a guardian for your minor children or for those of your children who are in need of guardianship (regardless of age) as determined by the court. You can specify in your Will for the guardian to act without requiring a bond (§2656).

 

 

  • Pets: The Vermont statute does not mention pets. You may wish to designate a carer for your pet in your Will. However, be sure to discuss this with the person before leaving a pet to someone in a Will. The beneficiary is not obliged to take your pet.

 

Probating a Will in Vermont

Whoever has custody of a Vermont Last Will, must deliver the original to either the probate court or to the executor named in the Will within 30 days of becoming aware of the testator’s death (§103). The custodian will be penalized $10 a month for failing to deliver the Will on time (§105). The Vermont statute requires the executor to file a petition within the following time frame:

  • If the executor knows they are nominated as such prior to the testator’s death, then within 30 days of becoming aware of the death;

 

  • If the executor finds out after the testator’s death, then within thirty days of discovering being named as executor (§104).

 

A penalty of $10 per month is payable by the executor if he/she fails to file the petition for probate within the required time (§105). If a Vermont Will is not contested, only one witness is required to appear to verify that it was signed properly. No witness is required to testify if the spouse, all heirs at law and all next of kin consent to the Will in writing. Vermont does not have an inheritance tax. However, if the deceased estate is required to file a Federal Estate Tax Return, then you are required to file a Vermont Estate Tax Return (Form E-1) with the Department of Taxes. The probate court will require a tax clearance from the Department before closing the estate.

Contesting a Vermont Will

When commencing the probate process, notice must be given to all ‘interested persons’ that the petitioner (usually the executor) intends to ask the court to allow the Will of the decedent. Interested persons to a Vermont Last Will and Testamentinclude heirs, devisees, legatees, spouses, children and such other persons as the court directs. The notice must advise the following:

  • Name, address and telephone number of the person who filed the petition or his/her attorney

 

  • Date and place of the hearing or reply if they are required

 

 

  • That the order sought may be granted if no interested person appears to object.

 

 

  • How to enter an appearance.

 

See the statutory form Notice to Interested Persons of Commencement of Probate Proceeding and Hearing on Allowance of Will. To contest a Vermont Will, Rule 12 of the Probate Procedure Rules requires that any answer to the petition be in writing and filed on or before the hearing. Unless the court directs otherwise, oral answers may be accepted at the hearing. The answer or reply may state objections to the order sought in the petition or any other matter the objecting person wishes to raise. If you are an interested person and wish to have the Vermont Last Will and Testamentcontested, you should contact an attorney who specializes in contesting Wills to enter an appearance and to object on your behalf. Note that timeliness is important so it’s crucial to consult an attorney immediately. Will contests can be very complex form of litigation.

Dying without a Will in Vermont

If you pass away without leaving a valid Vermont Willand you were a resident of the State of Vermont at the time of your death, then your real and personal property will be dealt with in accordance with Vermont state law. The law states that after payment of requisite debts and expenses, the rest of your assets will be divided as follows:

  • If you have no children who survive you, then your spouse gets everything.

 

  • If you have children with your spouse, your spouse is still entitled to the whole estate.

 

 

  • If you have children outside your spouse, your spouse will receive one half.

 

 

  • Any amount not inherited by your spouse is divided between your children, or grandchildren by representation if any of your children have predeceased you (unless you expressly excluded them from your Vermont Will).

 

 

  • If there is no surviving spouse or children, the estate goes to your parents, or if no parents survive you, then to your siblings by representation.

 

What does the intestate legislation actually say?

The wording is found in Title 14, Chapter 42 Descent and Survivor’s Rights. The relevant sections are transcribed below:

“§ 311. Share of surviving spouse. After payment of the debts, funeral charges, and expenses of administration, the intestate share of the decedent’s surviving spouse is as follows: (1) The surviving spouse shall receive the entire intestate estate if no descendant of the decedent survives the decedent or if all of the decedent’s surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse. (2) In the event there shall survive the decedent one or more descendants of the decedent who are not descendants of the surviving spouse and are not excluded by the decedent’s will from inheriting from the decedent, the surviving spouse shall receive one-half of the intestate estate. § 314. Share of heirs other than surviving spouse. (a) The balance of the intestate estate not passing to the decedent’s surviving spouse under section 311 of this title passes to the decedent’s descendants by right of representation. (b) If there is no taker under subsection (a) of this section, the intestate estate passes in the following order: (1) to the decedent’s parents equally if both survive or to the surviving parent; (2) to the decedent’s siblings and the descendants of any deceased siblings by right of representation; (3) one-half of the intestate estate to the decedent’s paternal grandparents equally if they both survive or to the surviving paternal grandparent and one-half of the intestate estate to the decedent’s maternal grandparents equally if they both survive or to the surviving maternal grandparent and if decedent is survived by a grandparent, or grandparents on only one side, to that grandparent or those grandparents; (4) in equal shares to the next of kin in equal degree. (c) If property passes under this section by right of representation, the property shall be divided into as many equal shares as there are children or siblings of the decedent, as the case may be, who either survive the decedent or who predecease the decedent leaving surviving descendants.”

Examples of Intestate Distributions

Here are some cases of how property and assets would be distributed if a resident died without a Vermont Will. Note: intestate estates do not include jointly owned property: Distributions when spouse dies without a will, leaving a spouse and two children: Sandra’s husband dies without a will. His estate is worth $100,000. They have two children together. Who gets what? Sandra – $100,000. Distributions when spouse dies without a will, leaving a spouse, children from the spouse and children from a former partner: Jenny’s husband Jason dies without a will. His estate is worth $100,000. They have two children together. Jason also has 2 children from a former partner. Who gets what? Jenny – $50,000, Jenny & Jason’s Children – $12,500 each, Jason’s children from a previous partner – $12,500 each. Distributions when spouse dies without a will, leaving a spouse, a child and grandchildren from a deceased child: Patricia’s husband dies without a will. His estate is worth $100,000. They have two children together. Kevin also had two children from a former partner but one has passed away. Who gets what? Patricia – $50,000, Patricia & Kevin’s Children – $12,500 each, Kevin’s Child from former partner – $12,500, Kevin’s grandchildren of deceased child from former partner – share $12,500 equally. Distributions when spouse dies without a will, leaving a spouse and children from a former partner: Chloe’s husband dies without a will. His estate is worth $100,000. They don’t have any children together. Andrew has two children from a former partner. Who gets what? Chloe – $50,000, Andrew’s children from former partner – $25,000 each.

Vermont Will Forms

Note: Before making a Vermont Will, we recommend you read vital information on preparing, signing and witnessing a will including advice on:

  • Distributing your property including specific bequests and the residue
  • Appointing an Executor
  • Creating a Trust
  • Appointing a Trustee to look after trust property of minor children or other beneficiaries
  • Designating a guardian for your minor children

Sample will forms available as free downloads (printable PDF documents).

Vermont Will Form: Married with adult children
Vermont Will Form: Married with adult and/or minor children, includes a trust for minor children
Vermont Will Form: Married with no children

Vermont Will Form: Single with adult children
Vermont Will Form: Single with adult and/or minor children, includes a trust for minor children
Vermont Will Form: Single with no children

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