Have a will. You hear that advice repeatedly along with the warnings of what could happen to your assets if you don’t. Generally, without a will, your assets will be distributed to your relatives according to Minnesota state law, which may not be according to your wishes. But, if you do make a will, make sure that you dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s” – a will that doesn’t meet Minnesota’s legal requirements is no better, maybe worse, than not having one at all.
In a recent example, a man had asked his cousin to be executor of this estate. He had no living parents, siblings or children and wasn’t married, so he also planned to leave his house and checking account to the cousin. He made a will and had it notarized at a bank; a witness also signed it. Unfortunately, in Minnesota, a will must be signed by two witnesses in order to be valid and legally enforceable.
Regardless of the man’s wishes, without a legal will, his estate worth about a half-million dollars was going to pass to his nieces. The cousin had to take legal action to try to get some portion of what he wanted her to have. The nieces asked the court to follow the law, leaving the cousin with little recourse except a settlement.
If you have a will, you feel secure in the notion that your wishes will be followed after you die. But that may be a false sense of security if the will doesn’t comply with the law. Even if you have the required number of witnesses and other requirements are met, you could create confusion or conflicting language in the will, which could also negate your wishes or even invalidate the entire will.
The basic requirements for wills include:
- You must be 18 years of age;
- The document must be in writing (handwritten is acceptable, but no recordings);
- It must be witnessed and signed by two people; and
- You must sign the will (it is not required to be notarized but it is a good idea if questions arise).
To make sure that your wishes are understood and carried out, your will must comply with the law and that your intentions must be clearly expressed. Consulting an estate planning attorney who understands the requirements for wills under Minnesota law can be crucial to your peace of mind.
Source: CBS Channel 4 WCCO, “Missing A Signature, Minneapolis Man’s Last Will Invalidated,” Liz Collin, Sept. 22, 2015