To make a valid will under Rhode Island law, the will must be:
- In writing
- Signed by the testator
- Attested and subscribed by two witnesses
The execution requirements for a valid will are found at Rhode Island General Laws § 33-5-5.
Who Can Make a Valid Will In Rhode Island?
Every person of sane mind and eighteen years or older may make a valid will under Rhode Island law. Rhode Island General Laws § 33-5-2.
To be of sane mind to make a will, Rhode Island law requires that the testator must:
- Possess sufficient mind and memory to understand the nature of the business of making a will;
- Know and understand the property he has and wishes to dispose of by the will;
- Know and remember the natural objects of his bounty and his relations to them; and
- Appreciate and understand these elements in relation to one another.
A Rhode Island Will Must Be Signed
Rhode Island law requires that a will be “signed by the testator, or by some other person for him or her in his or her presence and by his or her express direction.” This means that if a testator is physically unable to sign the will, the testator can direct another person to sign the will for the testator. The other person must sign the will in the presence of the testator, and at the testator’s express direction. Rhode Island General Laws § 33-5-5.
Witness Requirements For a Rhode Island Will
A testator’s signature on the will must be made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two (2) or more witnesses present at the same time, and the witnesses must attest and subscribe the will in the presence of the testator. The witnesses and the testator must all be present at the same time when each of them signs the will.
Can a Beneficiary Witness a Will Under Rhode Island Law?
A beneficiary who receives a gift under the will should not attest the execution of the will. Rhode Island law states:
If any person shall attest the execution of any will or codicil to whom any beneficial devise, legacy, estate, interest, gift, or appointment, or affecting any real or personal estate, other than and except charges and direction for the payment of any debt or debts, shall be thereby given or made, the devise, legacy, estate, interest, gift or appointment shall, so far only as concerns that person attesting the execution of the will, or codicil, or any person claiming under that person, be utterly null and void; but the person so attesting shall be admitted as a witness to prove the execution of the will, or codicil, or to prove the validity or invalidity thereof, notwithstanding the devise, legacy, estate, interest, gift, or appointment, mentioned in the will, or codicil.
Rhode Island General Laws § 33-6-1. Said another way, any gift to the beneficiary witness or their lineage will be deemed void if the beneficiary is an attesting witness to the will.
Does a Rhode Island Will Have To Be Notarized?
No. There is no requirement that to be valid under Rhode Island law a will needs to be notarized. However, Rhode Island allows a will to be made self-proved, which requires the affidavit of the subscribing witnesses signed in front of a notary. The general form for making a will self-proved is found at Rhode Island General Laws § 33-7-26.
Making a will self-proved allows the court to admit the will to probate without obtaining the testimony of the witnesses to the will.
A Rhode Island probate lawyer can assist you in creating a valid will that carries out your testamentary wishes.