A will is a legal document that transfers ownership of a person’s assets through probate following that person’s death. To be valid, a will must meet requirements including age, competence, residency and execution.

Probate is the court process that administers a person’s estate. Through probate, a decedent’s debts are paid and assets transferred. In Minnesota, probate may take various forms, depending on the estate’s complexity.

A personal representative is the modern term for what previously was known as the estate executor. A personal representative handles probate. In a will, parents of minor children can also nominate guardians for their children. In addition, you also can identify people you wish to handle certain affairs.

How do I make a will in Minnesota?

You have to be over 18, live in Minnesota, be mentally competent, know your beneficiary, create your will in writing and sign with witnesses and notarization.

When should I hire an attorney to help me with a will?

Sooner is better. Everyone should prepare a will. Otherwise, the state handles it and splits it up depending on your situation and succession laws. It’s crucial for parents with minor children to have a will to establish guardianship if something happened to both parents.

Can I write my own will?

Everyone can write his or her own will. For it to meet legal requirements, however, you must be at least 18, mentally competent, live in the state, produce the will in writing and have it notarized with witnesses.

What happens if I don’t have a will?

Without a will, Minnesota law determines who will inherit your assets.

What is an executor?

Executor is an old term in Minnesota now known as a personal representative. This is the person you name to carry out your estate plans. Personal representatives have no authority during the lifetime of the person who established the will.

What’s involved in nominating an executor?

Nomination involves simply naming that person. But it should be someone who is responsible. This person handles the probate process, making him or her responsible for finances, including paying bills and transferring estate assets. Because of this, name someone you trust, such as a sibling, another relative or a close friend.

If I get married or divorced does that affect my will?

Minnesota law provides certain rights through wills that can impact the rights of a spouse following a death. As a result, update your will if your marital status changes

What is a testamentary trust?

This is a type of trust that only comes into play after death and inclusion in a will. In most cases, this is a less common way to handle estate planning.

What happens to any old wills?

If drafted correctly, a new will automatically overrides an old will. Attorneys recommend discarding old wills to avoid confusion with multiple wills following death.

What should you include in your will?

Name the person you want to serve as your personal representative. If you have children, specify who will have guardianship over them. Also, name your beneficiary and to whom your assets will go. In addition, you can include a contents clause, which specifies inheritance and can help if someone challenges the will.

What should you not include in your will?

Sometimes, people want to explain why someone was left out of the will. But that generally should not be included in a will. Instead, consider including a simple statement such as, “I know to whom I’m leaving my assets,” and don’t address anyone you’re leaving out. Burial instructions can be omitted because the will usually comes into play after burial. Lastly, explain what benefits go to designated beneficiaries.

How do you execute the will?

The person covered by the will  executes it with a signature and date, and typically with two witnesses, an attorney and a notary present.

What makes up my estate?

An estate includes all assets, typically including a car, a house, any real estate, investments and personal items.

What should I know before creating a will?

Make a list of your assets. You also should know how you’d like your estate handled and divided. Think thoroughly and be comfortable talking about what might be uncomfortable family situations. Consider as many issues and questions as you can beforehand.

What are the key steps to preparing a will?

  1. Identify your assets
  2. Identify your intended beneficiary
  3. Choose your personal representative
  4. Meet with your attorney
  5. Review draft wills that the attorney prepares and ask questions
  6. Create a final will
  7. Sign the will and fulfill all execution requirements
  8. Keep your will in a safe place