A last will and testament is a legal document that contains instructions about who gets your belongings when you die and lets you choose a guardian for a minor child. A will is the first step to creating a solid estate plan, which can also include other documents, like a power of attorney and a living trust. If you live in Connecticut, you need a will to make sure your loved ones get the assets you want them to have — otherwise, a probate court may determine who gets what.
Live somewhere else? See our guide to making a will in your state.
Connecticut will requirements
The testator, the person making the will, must be at least 18 years old and of "sound mind" to create a Connecticut will (§45a-250).  They can use their will to name beneficiaries to receive their personal assets and an executor to carry out the will’s terms.
Connecticut doesn't have any explicit requirements for choosing an executor, although they must not be "incapable" of accepting the responsibility (for example, they must have reached the age of majority).
Every Connecticut will must be signed by two competent witnesses who watch the testator sign in person. Witnesses can be beneficiaries of the will, but unless there are two other disinterested witnesses the inheritance will be void. (§45a-258)
Learn more about how to witness a will.
Can I write my own will in Connecticut?
You can make your will in Connecticut without a lawyer, and it will be valid as long it follows all the requirements set out by state law. An estate attorney can charge as much as hundreds or thousands of dollars to prepare the document, but people with complex beneficiaries or a high-value estate may need legal advice and benefit from using an attorney’s services.
Most other people with a straightforward financial situation can create a simple will through an online will-making service, which can be inexpensive and provide more guidance than a free will form that you download and fill out. You may not be able to tailor these templates to your preferences.
Learn more about making a will without a lawyer.
Handwritten wills in Connecticut
Handwritten wills in Connecticut are only valid if they are properly witnessed (which means these documents aren’t true holographic wills). However, a handwritten will from another state that legally recognizes holographic wills may be valid in Connecticut.
Oral wills are not permitted under Connecticut law. (§45a-251)
Does my will need to be notarized?
A Connecticut will does not need to be notarized in order for it to be a valid legal document. Notarizing the signatures of the witnesses can be very useful, though, since it helps prove the validity of the will upon the testator’s death. This is typically done by including a self-proving affidavit, which makes it so witnesses are not called by the court to give testimony during probate. (§45a-285)
Changing a will
If you want to make changes to a Connecticut will, you can do so by adding a codicil, or writing a new will and destroying the old one. Keep in mind that the codicil must be signed and witnessed again in order to be valid. Wills can be changed up until the testator’s death as long as the testator remains of sound mind.
Filing a will in Connecticut
Connecticut probate law
Probate is the process of proving a will. After the testator dies, a probate judge determines whether or not the will is a valid legal document, and the testator’s family and loved ones will have a chance to contest the will if it is ambiguous or poorly constructed during a probate hearing.
It’s the executor’s job to initiate probate proceedings with the court, and depending on what the decedent owned, the filing procedures to distribute the deceased’s assets can vary. For example, if the decedent died with an estate worth under a certain dollar amount, the estate can be administered outside of formal probate through a small estate affidavit.
Connecticut estate tax
Before the deceased’s assets can be distributed, the executor is required to pay any applicable estate taxes. The federal estate tax in 2021 starts at $11.7 million, and Connecticut charges its own estate tax for estates over the $7.1 million exemption limit. A Connecticut estate tax return must be filed with the probate court within six months of the decedent’s death.
Learn more about who has to pay estate tax.
Dying without a valid will
When there is no will, the court will determine who receives the decedent’s estate, now deemed intestate. Usually, the surviving spouse has the first claim to the estate assets.
This is how much a surviving spouse receives in a few different circumstances (§45a-437):
If the decedent is survived by a spouse and:
Surviving spouse's share
No children or parents
Children from the surviving spouse only
The first $100,000, plus 1/2 of any balance of the intestate estate
Children from someone else
1/2 of the intestate estate
Parents but no children
The first $100,000, plus 3/4 of any balance of the intestate estate
Otherwise, when there is no surviving spouse, then the intestate estate will pass along in the following order (§45a-439):
Children, or their children
Siblings of the decedent
If an inheritor is dead, then their share passes to their children, often by a per stirpes designation.