NH Law About... Making a Will

Introduction to... Making a Will

Posted May 27, 2014. Revised December 23, 2016.

Making a will is one of several steps in estate planning. Requirements for creating a valid will vary for each state and are usually found in the state statutes.  In New Hampshire, requirements for creating a valid will are given in RSA 551 (discussed below).  

Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney. 

Forms

One of the frequently asked questions at the law library is "where can I find a form for a will?" There are New Hampshire will forms that are free and created by New Hampshire lawyers but most of them are available in print sources, not online.  Wills, Trusts and Gifts by Charles A. DeGrandpre, listed below, is an excellent source which provides information on how to create a will in New Hampshire.  It gives specific information on New Hampshire requirements, and it gives an extensive, detailed discussion of the topic.  Chapters 3 through 20 discuss many aspects of New Hampshire wills in general, and Chapters 21 through 24 discusses alternatives to wills.  In addition, Chapter 2 lists and defines many wills, trusts, gifts, and probate terms, and the book includes a detailed “Appendix of Forms and Checklists”, which provides 70 different forms specific to New Hampshire.  Form 4 is a simple will and Form 5 is a self-proving will.  Be sure to check the current, separate supplement for extensive, updated information for many of those forms.    

Another excellent source for information on creating wills is A Practical Guide to Estate Planning in New Hampshire.   Although most of the book covers other aspects of estate planning, Chapter 3, called “Fundamental Estate Planning” covers the basic structure of a will, relationship of the will to nonprobate assets, drafting a simple will, and special issues regarding wills.  This book also provides a CD ROM which contains exhibits and forms to accompany the information in the book. 

Drafting Effective Wills and Trusts also has sample will forms as well as a worksheet that will help you gather financial and other information needed for an estate plan.  

Other FAQs

Is a holographic will valid in New Hampshire?

"A holographic will is a handwritten will that does not meet the attestation requirements of RSA 551:2. For example, the will may have been signed by only 1 witness or no witnesses at all. While holographic wills are recognized in some states, they are not recognized in New Hampshire, despite widespread belief that such wills are valid." (Estate Planning Essentials. p. 77)

Is an oral or nuncupative will valid in New Hampshire?  

"A will that is not in writing is generally not valid in New Hampshire. However RSA 551:16 allows a person to bequeath tangible personal property of $100 or less without a writing. [...] The statute provides that tangible personal property in excess of $100 can be bequeathed by nuncupative will in [...] limited circumstances." (Estate Planning Essentials. p. 77)   

RSA 551 and 551-A 

New Hampshire statute, RSA 551, sets out the requirements for creating a will.  It covers who can make a will, the general requirements for making a will, the requirements for making a self-proved will, wills made outside the state, requirements regarding property and children named and unnamed in the will, revocation of a will, and requirements for wills of soldiers in active service or a mariner or seaman when at sea.  RSA 551-A sets out New Hampshire’s version of the Uniform International Wills Act, giving requirements for creating a valid New Hampshire will when the person making the will is outside the United States.  Another New Hampshire statute, RSA 21, says that the word “will” in New Hampshire statutes includes “codicils”, which are amendments to wills.

Federal Law

15 U.S.C. §§7001, 7003, the  federal law on electronic signatures, has a general rule of validity for electronic signatures on many legal documents; however, there is a specific exception that this presumption of validity does not apply to statutes (i.e., RSA 551) governing the creation of wills or codicils.


Read about... Making a Will

WEBSITES

Wills - Frequently Asked Questions. Circuit Court. Probate Division Service Center

Link verified on: December 23, 2016

Can I write my own will? -- Do I need to file the will? -- How long do creditors have to file a claim? -- What if there is no will? -- What happens if I'm asked to open the estate? -- How do I get copies of documents? -- Where can I get a form for a living will?   GO>

NOLO. Wills  GO>

Link verified on: December 23, 2016


PRINT

Wills, Trusts and Gifts/ by Charles A. DeGrandpre. Newark, N.J.: LexisNexis, Matthew Bender, 2003. 4th ed.   GO>

Link verified on: December 23, 2016

A Practical Guide to Estate Planning in New Hampshire/ John E. Hughes, Michael J. Malaguti and Dana A. Remus, editors. Boston, Mass.: Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, 2012.   GO>

Link verified on: December 23, 2016

Drafting effective wills and trusts. NBI, 2016.   GO>

Link verified on: December 23, 2016

Estate planning essentials. New Hampshire Bar Association, [2015]

Beginning the estate planning process : initial intake and client meeting -- Ethical considerations in estate planning -- New Hampshire advance directives -- Wills -- Estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer taxes -- Use of trusts in estate planning -- Estate planning for same sex couples -- Estate planning for minors -- Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements in New Hampshire -- Medicaid basics for estate planners -- Funding trusts and beneficiary designations.   GO>

Link verified on: December 23, 2016

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Read the law about... Making a Will

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATUTES

RSA 21:22. Statutory Construction. Will   GO>

Link verified on: December 23, 2016

RSA 551. Wills  GO>

Link verified on: December 23, 2016

RSA 551-A. Uniform International Wills Act  GO>

Link verified on: December 23, 2016

Find it in a Library ... New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated

Link verified on: February 22, 2017

Find the New Hampshire statutes in print at libraries throughout the state.   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Statutes: New Hampshire statutes are the laws of the State of New Hampshire as enacted by the New Hampshire General Court. GO>
 

FEDERAL STATUTES

15 U.S.C. 7001, 7003 Electronic Signatures  GO>

Link verified on: December 23, 2016


FOR MORE HELP ...

Circuit Court. Probate Division  GO>

Link verified on: December 23, 2016

New Hampshire Law Library

Link verified on: February 22, 2017

The state's only public law library. Call, email, or visit, we'll be happy to help.   GO>


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