No one is legally required to have a will, but without one your estate is vulnerable to the laws of the state where you die. In Minnesota, your property will always pass to an immediate family member if you die without a will. So to provide for a friend or a more distant family member, you must state this intention in your will. Make sure your will accurately reflects your wishes by having it reviewed by an attorney.
Two witnesses must sign your will for it to be valid in Minnesota. In addition to signing it yourself, you must also include your full name, your date of birth and your address. You have the option of “self-proving” it, which entails making a separate sworn statement at the same time you sign your will. The statement should indicate that you signed the will voluntarily and that you were not under any undue influence at the time. While this step is not required, it can help thwart any efforts by beneficiaries or heirs to contest your will after your death. You must be 18 years of age or older to make a will in Minnesota.
What They Cover
Wills in Minnesota address only the disposition of all “probate” assets, those that must move through the probate system to transfer ownership to a beneficiary. Any property that transfers directly to someone else at the time of your death, such as life insurance policies with beneficiary designations that specify who gets the payout, is excluded from probate. These “non-probate” assets override your will, so if you write someone out of your will but forget to take their name off the non-probate asset, they will still get that asset regardless of what your will says.
Who They Can Exclude
You can exclude almost anyone from your will, including your children, in Minnesota. The only exception is your current spouse. If your forget to omit your ex-spouse from your will after a divorce, the state of Minnesota will take care of it for you. State law automatically revokes all bequests and provisions mentioning her after a divorce. However, if you die without revising your will after a divorce or without making a new one, and you named your ex-spouse as executor, Minnesota will revoke that provision as well and appoint someone else to do the job.
Provisions for Next of Kin
Minnesota’s statutes include “Homestead,” “Family Allowance” and “Exempt Property” provisions to protect your next of kin when you pass away, whether or not you leave a will. The Homestead law protects your family home from most claims by creditors for any debts you owed at the time of your death. The Family Allowance provision grants your spouse and minor children funds from your estate to pay household bills for up to 18 months after you die. Your spouse is also entitled to an automobile and property from your estate worth up to $10,000 before creditors are paid. If you don’t name your spouse in your will, he is still entitled to up to half of your estate. In Minnesota, the exact percentage depends on how long you had been married at the time of your death.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.