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A closer look at the execution of simple wills in Minnesota

In previous posts, we've discussed how many people would benefit considerably from having a simple will in place. That's because this legally binding document allows a person to set forth their exact wishes concerning how they want their money, real estate and personal belongings to be divided, as well appoint guardians for any minor children.

While the idea of actively planning for your own demise may be an uncomfortable proposition, it can nevertheless prove very liberating as you know the necessary preparations are in place should you pass unexpectedly.

Furthermore, executing a simple will ensures that you, not Minnesota, decide how your assets are to be divided.

Currently, state law dictates that if you die intestate (i.e., without a will), your assts will be divided among your spouse and any children according to a set formula. However, if you do not have such relations, your assets will be divided in the order of grandchildren, parents, brothers and sisters and out to more distant relatives if necessary.

If you are considering executing a simple will, it's important to understand that the following rules must be honored in order for it to be considered valid by the courts:

  • You must be of legally sound mind and at least 18 years old at the time of execution.
  • The will must be executed in writing.
  • The will must bear your signature, and the signature of another party in your presence and at your direction.
  • The will execution must be witnessed by a minimum of two people and bear their respective signatures.
  • The will must be self-proved, meaning that there is evidence showing that you intend for it to function as such. Typically, this can be accomplished via affidavits signed by you and the witnesses swearing that all of the above-mentioned requirements were satisfied and that you were not under undue influence.   

Stay tuned for future posts in which we will continue to explore some of basic background information about simple wills here in Minnesota. In the meantime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you would like to learn more about your estate planning options.

Source: The Office of Attorney General Lori Swanson, "Probate and planning: Wills," July 2014

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