When it comes to making a will or creating an estate plan, many people delay until it is too late. Other times, they wait until a serious illness or hospitalization to make a will. When they wait too long, they usually prepare their will in a rush, with some people even resorting to writing out their final wishes by hand.
Although it is legal to make a handwritten will under Minnesota law, and handwritten wills are enforceable under state law, it’s not a good idea to use one.
Requirements for Wills in Minnesota
Like other states, Minnesota has strict requirements for wills. Furthermore, every requirement must be satisfied for a will to be enforceable. Under Minnesota law, a will is only valid if it is:
· In writing, which can be typed or handwritten
· Signed by the testator or by another person at the testator’s direction and in the testator’s conscious presence
· Signed by two witnesses – both witnesses must either see the testator sign the will or witness the testator acknowledging he or she signed it
If just one step is missed, the will is invalid. This can be a huge blow for families, as an invalid will can cause property to be distributed in a drastically different way.
Potential Problems with Handwritten Wills
Although a handwritten will may seem like a shortcut that saves time and money, it’s best to work with an experienced estate planning lawyer to draft your will. There are many stories of handwritten wills being held invalid due to a missing requirement.
In one recent case, a Minneapolis man’s handwritten will was invalid because it had been witnessed by just one person. Although it was notarized, the missing witness signature meant the man’s final wishes were not carried out. Rather than leaving his house and bank account to his cousin, as he specified in his will, his invalid will meant his property was distributed in equal shares to other relatives, according to state intestacy law.
Even if a handwritten will is properly executed, it could still end up being disputed. In some cases, illegible handwriting has led family members to disagree about the contents of a handwritten will. In other cases, families have argued that a testator was coerced into making a handwritten will immediately before his or her death. These are all problems that are usually easily avoided by working with an experienced estate planning and probate lawyer.
St. Paul Estate Planning and Probate Lawyers
Call the Minnesota probate and estate planning attorneys at Jeffrey P. Scott & Associates, LLC today at (651) 968-1457 to talk about your estate planning or probate case. Our lawyers are here to help.