Do I Need a Will in Rhode Island?

A Will is a written document that expresses a person's desires to pass his or her property when they die. It must conform to Rhode Island State law requirements, for example, two witnesses of eighteen (18) years of age or older.

People are more likely to execute a Will than any other kind of legal document. Many Wills are fairly simple, yet others can be very complex. A Will is intended to provide direction for how a person’s estate (property, assets, cash, etc.) is distributed to his or her surviving beneficiaries. These beneficiaries can be family members, charitable organizations, friends, business associates, and in some cases, family pets.

If a person has not executed a valid Will prior to death, he or she is determined to have died “intestate,” meaning no instructions have been given for distributing that person’s assets at the time of his or her death. In Rhode Island, in this case, the assets pass according to the statutory Rules of Descent and other statutes. As a result, a person’s estate may be distributed contrary to his or her desire or intentions.

Generally speaking, a surviving spouse and children are first in line to inherit the assets of an individual who dies intestate. If no spouse or children exist, parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc. may inherit the decedent’s property.

The other main consequence of not having a will is the potential cost to an estate while the estate is administered in Probate Court. Attorney’s fees and court costs will reduce the deceased person’s assets that could have passed to his or her heirs.

It is always advisable to consult with a Rhode Island attorney who practices in the area of Wills.


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