Wills 101

What is a will?

A will is a document that provides the manner in which a person’s property will be distributed after death.  It must meet certain formal requirements as provided by each state.  If a person has a will upon death, that person is considered to have died testate.  Conversely, a person that dies without a will, dies intestate.  If you die intestate, state law will determine what happens to your property. Generally, it will go to your spouse and children or, if you have neither, to your other closest relatives at a proportion pre-designated by the state. If no relatives can be found to inherit your property, it will go to the state.  In addition, if you die intestate, a court will determine who will care for your young children and their property if the other parent is unavailable or unfit to do so.

What can a will (not) do?

The most significant benefit to a will is the ability to provide direction over the disposition of your property after death.  However, the law only lets you exert so much “dead-hand-control”.  For example, you cannot completely disinherit a living spouse.  He or she has the right to a statutory elective share, which varies from state to state.  For more information on the benefits and limitations of a will call our office at (612) 335-2200.

How do I create a will in Minnesota?

In most circumstances a properly drafted will in the state of Minnesota must be:

(1)  In writing

(2) Signed by the testator or in the testator’s name by some other individual in the testator’s conscious presence and by the testator’s direction; and

(3) Signed by at least two individuals, each of whom signed within a reasonable time after witnessing either the signing of the will or the testator’s acknowledgment of that signature or acknowledgment of the will.

When should I evaluate my need for a will?

When:

(1)  You get married or divorced

(2)  There is a birth or death in your family that affects your plan in your will

(3)  You have a large increase or decrease in the value of your property

(4)  The person you name as executor, guardian, or trustee dies or becomes unavailable to serve

(5)  Estate tax law changes

(6)  You change your state of residence

(7)  You decide to change how you want your property distributed

If you would like more details about Wills, please contact Nic Wenner at (612) 355-2202.

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