- Making, Changing or Revoking a Will in Wyoming
- Entitlements and Special Rules Regarding Wyoming wills
- Probate Estate in Wyoming
- Contesting a Will in Wyoming
- Dying in Wyoming without a Will
- Wyoming Intestacy Law
- Wyoming will Forms
- Wyoming Will Attorneys
- Wyoming Will Code
- Wyoming Will Law Firms
- Wyoming Will Lawyers
- Wyoming Will Probate Law
Wills in Wyoming are covered under the Wyoming Code, Title 2: Wills, Decedent’s Estates and Probate Code. All section numbers (§) on this page are references to this statute.
Making, Changing or Revoking a Will in Wyoming
Making a Wyoming Will
Chapter 6 of the Wyoming Probate Code stipulates the following requirements:
- You must be of legal age (18 years or older (§ 2-1-301) and sound mind in order to make a Will (§ 2-6-101);
- A Wyoming Last Will and Testament must be in writing or typewritten and signed by the testator or another person in his presence and at his express direction (§ 2-6-112);
- There must be two witnesses, 18 years or older and of sound mind (§ 2-6-112);
- A witness cannot benefit under the Will, unless there are two other disinterested and competent witnesses (§ 2-6-112);
- Nuncupative (oral) wills are not recognized under Wyoming law, even if they are tape recorded.
Can I make a Holographic Will?
Wyoming does recognize a Will which has been written entirely in the testator’s handwriting and signed by him/her. Holographic Wills are not required to be witnessed (§ 2-6-113). The courts are very strict in interpreting this provision and no lawyer would advise to settle for a holographic Will if you can avoid it.
Self-Proving a Wyoming will
The Wyoming Probate Code allows Wills to be self-proved. This means your witnesses sign affidavits attesting to the execution of your Wyoming Last Will before an authorized officer such as a notary public. This can be done simultaneously with signing the Will or you can also self-prove an already existing Will. § 2-6-114.
Having a Will self-proved gives authentication, enabling it to be probated without further proof § 2-6-204. If your will is not self-proved, at least one of your witnesses will be required to prove the will in probate § 2-6-205. This may cause difficulties if your witnesses have already died or are unavailable.
Self-Proving Will Forms
To self-prove a Wyoming will, the testator and witnesses need to sign affidavits. There are two different affidavit forms (one for signing simultaneously with the Will and the other for self-proving an already existing Will).
The affidavits must be made “before an officer authorized to administer oaths under the laws of this state or under the laws of the state where execution occurs, and evidenced by the officer’s certificate under official seal, attached or annexed to the will”. § 2-6-114
Changing a Wyoming will
Wyoming Wills can be changed by creating a codicil. This is a document which refers to the Will and alters its relevant provisions. A codicil has the same witnessing and execution requirements as a Will § 2-1-301.
Another way to change your Will is to make a new one and fully revoke the previous.
Revoking a Wyoming will
To revoke a Will means to cancel it, so it no longer applies. Revocation can occur by making a subsequent Will. The later Will must expressly revoke the former one, otherwise, only the inconsistent parts are revoked, leaving the remainder in force. § 2-6-117
Alternatively, a Wyoming Last Will and Testament may be revoked by physically destroying it (eg: burning, tearing). § 2-6-117
Becoming divorced or having your marriage annulled will revoke all gifts and appointments made in favor of your former spouse (unless your Will expressly states the devises and/or nominations are to remain in place). § 2-6-118
Entitlements and Special Rules Regarding Wyoming wills
- Spouse Gets Elective Share – regardless of your Wyoming Will, the surviving spouse of a resident is entitled to one half of the deceased’s estate if the testator left no surviving issue or if the issue are also the children of the surviving spouse. If the deceased person had children with another person other than the spouse, then the surviving spouse’s elective share is reduced to one quarter. If the elective share is not applied for within the specified time, the right will lapse (§ 2-5-101).
- Homestead Allowance – the surviving spouse is entitled to a homestead allowance, exempt property and family allowance § 2-5-103
- Homestead and Support – until letters testamentary with the Wyoming Last Will and Testament annexed are granted and inventory is returned, the testator’s spouse or minor children are entitled to remain in possession of the homestead, furniture and apparel. The court may also allow a reasonable provision for their support § 2-7-501.
- Creditors: Where the homestead is seized by creditors, the spouse or minor children are entitled to the homestead (defined as up to the value of $30,000). Where no spouse or minor children are left, the homestead is liable for the testator’s debts § 2-7-501.
- Gifts to Beneficiaries who Predecease – the Wyoming Willslegislation provides what happens to a person’s share you left them in your Will if they die before you (predecease). These rules will apply unless there is a contrary intention in your Will. The legislation differentiates between your family and other beneficiaries in the following way:
- If a beneficiary is your grandparent or a lineal descendent of your grandparent and dies before you, then his/her issue will receive the deceased beneficiary’s share (§ 2-6-106). This rule applies even if the beneficiary was dead before you made the Will;
- If the predeceased beneficiary is not your grandparent or a lineal descendent of a grandparent, then his/her share in the residue will be given to the other residuary beneficiaries in proportion to their interests in the residue under your Will (§ 2-6-107).
- Specific Gifts subject to Debt: If you leave a gift of any real or personal property to a person in your Wyoming Will, that person takes the gift with any mortgage, interest, security or lien which exists on that property at the date of your death. Unless you state otherwise in a Will, that beneficiary (not the estate) Will bear the burden of paying off the debt (§ 2-6-111). This is referred to as ‘non-exoneration’.
Probating a Will in Wyoming
Delivering the Original Wyoming Last Will and Testament
The person who has custody of a Will must deliver it to the probate court or to the executor within ten (10) days of becoming aware of the death. The custodian will be liable to any person who suffers damage as a result of failing to abide by this duty. If the custodian refuses to hand over the Will despite a court order, he/she may be punished for contempt of court. § 2-6-119.
Executor to file Petition
The person named as executor in a Wyoming Will must file a petition for probate and letters testamentary within thirty days of learning the testator has died. Failing to do so entitles the court to deem he has renounced the position and to appoint someone else as administrator, unless good cause for the delay can be shown. § 2-6-202
Inheritance and Estate Taxes
Wyoming does not impose succession tax and does not have an estate tax return form. The only death tax collected by the Department of State Revenue is merely a “pick-up” tax, corresponding to the federal credit for state death tax. If you are not required to file a federal estate tax return, the State of Wyoming still requires you to show that no tax was due by filing an Application for No Tax Due Certificate.
Contesting a Will in Wyoming
Any interested person may contest a Wyoming Will or its validity after it has been admitted to probate § 2-6-301. Time limits apply. The interested person is required to file a petition in writing in the court in which the Will was proved. The petition must state the allegations against the validity of the Will or against the sufficiency of proof, praying that probate be revoked.
After admitting the Will to probate, the person who filed the petition for probate/the personal representative is required to publish a notice advising that any action to set aside the Wyoming Last Will & Testament must be filed in the Court within three (3) months from the date that notice is first published; otherwise any such action will be barred § 2-6-122 & § 2-7-201.
Publication of this notice must be carried out once a week for three consecutive weeks in a daily or weekly newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the probate was granted § 2-6-122.
If you are an interested person and wish to contest a Will in Wyoming, contact an attorney who specializes in contesting wills and estates. Note that strict deadlines apply so it’s best to deal with the matter straightaway.
Dying in Wyoming without a Will
If a resident of Wyoming dies intestate (without a valid Wyoming Will), then his/her real and personal property will be distributed in accordance with Chapter 4 Intestate Succession of the Wyoming Probate Code.
If the decedent left behind a husband or wife and children/grandchildren, then the husband/wife would receive one half of the estate. The other half is divided between the children and any deceased child’s children, who will take their parent’s share.
The husband or wife will inherit all of the estate if there are no surviving children or grandchildren.
If there is no surviving husband/wife, the estate will be divided equally between the deceased person’s children and if any child has deceased, then his/her children will take that share equally. § 2-4-101
In Wyoming, a person’s ‘kindred’ does not include his/her stepchildren, foster children nor their descendents. It does however include persons of half-blood § 2-4-104. Adopted persons are also included § 2-4-107.
Wyoming Intestacy Law
The relevant section of what happens if you die without making a Wyoming Last Will and Testament is written out below:
“§ 2-4-101. Rule of descent; generally; dower and curtesy abolished.
(a) Whenever any person having title to any real or personal property having the nature or legal character of real estate or personal estate undisposed of, and not otherwise limited by marriage settlement, dies intestate, the estate shall descend and be distributed in parcenary to his kindred, male and female, subject to the payment of his debts, in the following course and manner:
(i) If the intestate leaves husband or wife and children, or the descendents of any children surviving, one-half (½) of the estate shall descend to the surviving husband or wife, and the residue thereof to the surviving children and descendents of children, as hereinafter limited;
(ii) If the intestate leaves husband or wife and no child nor descendents of any child, then the real and personal estate of the intestate shall descend and vest in the surviving husband or wife.
(A) and (B) Repealed by Laws 1985, ch. 135, § 2.
(iii) Repealed by Laws 1985, ch. 135, § 2.
(b) Dower and the tenancy by the curtesy are abolished and neither husband nor wife shall have any share in the estate of the other dying intestate, save as herein provided.
(c) Except in cases above enumerated, the estate of any intestate shall descend and be distributed as follows:
(i) To his children surviving, and the descendents of his children who are dead, the descendents collectively taking the share which their parents would have taken if living;
(ii) If there are no children, nor their descendents, then to his father, mother, brothers and sisters, and to the descendents of brothers and sisters who are dead, the descendents collectively taking the share which their parents would have taken if living, in equal parts;
(iii) If there are no children nor their descendents, nor father, mother, brothers, sisters, nor descendents of deceased brothers and sisters, nor husband nor wife, living, then to the grandfather, grandmother, uncles, aunts and their descendents, the descendents taking collectively, the share of their immediate ancestors, in equal parts.”
Examples of Intestacy Distributions
Many people die without having a Wyoming Will. Here are some case studies of how their property would be distributed in accordance with Wyoming intestacy law. Note that property limited by marriage settlement and jointly owned assets do not form part of a person’s probate estate.
Distributions when spouse dies without a Will, leaving a spouse and two children: Kathy’s husband dies without a Will. His estate is worth $100,000. They have two children together. Who gets what? Kathy – $50,000, Children – $25,000 each.
Distributions when spouse dies without a will, leaving a spouse, children from the spouse and children from a former partner: Rose’s husband Paul dies without a Will. His estate is worth $100,000. They have two children together. Paul also has 2 children from a former partner. Who gets what? Rose – $50,000, Rose & Paul’s Children – $12,500 each, Paul’s children from a previous partner – $12,500 each.
Distributions when spouse dies without a Will, leaving a spouse, children and grandchildren from a deceased child of a former partner: Joan’s husband dies without a Will. His estate is worth $100,000. They have two children together. Jeremy also had two children from a former partner but one has passed away.
Who gets what? Joan – $50,000, Joan & Jeremy’s Children – $12,500 each, Jeremy’s Child from former partner – $12,500, Jeremy’s grandchildren of deceased child from former partner – share $12,500 equally.
Distributions when spouse dies without a Will, leaving a spouse and child from a former partner: Judy’s husband dies without a will. His estate is worth $100,000. They don’t have any children together. Andrew has a child from a former partner. Who gets what? Judy – $50,000, Andrew’s child from former partner – $50,000.
Wyoming Will Forms
Note: Before making a Wyoming Will, we recommend you research information on preparing, signing and witnessing a last Will and Testament, including:
- 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