In a prior post, we started exploring the topic of simple wills. The reasoning behind this was to provide some valuable insight into what state law has to say about these important legally binding documents and to reinforce just how vital they are in helping solidify a person's exact estate planning wishes.
In today's post, we'll continue exploring some basic background information about simple wills and the requirements set forth under Minnesota law.
The typical elements of a simple will
There is really no set formula that must be followed for establishing a simple will. However, there are certain elements that should be included to ensure that it is both clearly decipherable and, more importantly, legally enforceable.
Some of these elements include the following:
- Your full legal name and place of residence
- Names of spouse, children and other non-familial beneficiaries, as well as alternative beneficiaries
- Full description of assets and names of the persons to whom they will be given
- Names of guardians (and alternative guardians) for any minor children
- Name of the executor to handle the administration of the estate
- Establishment of trusts and naming of trustees
- Your signature as well as the signature of the witnesses
One of the more common questions people have concerning the execution of simple wills is whether they are legally permitted to omit -- i.e., disinherit -- their spouse or children.
Under Minnesota law, a spouse can claim up to one-half of an estate despite being left out of the will. However, the amount of money they are ultimately able to secure depends upon the length of the marriage.
Children aren't quite as lucky under Minnesota law, as they can indeed be disinherited in a will and, unlike a spouse, have no legal recourse.
We will continue to explore some basic background information about simple wills in future posts. Remember to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you would like to learn more about your options as they relate to estate planning.
Source: The Office of Attorney General Lori Swanson, "Probate and planning: Wills," July 2014