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What is a will and do I need one?

A will is a legal document outlining your wishes in the event of your death.  If you have children, stepchildren, living parents or a spouse, it’s a good idea to establish a comprehensive will.

It’s not just about passing along your money and possessions, having a valid will that spells out your wishes and intentions can also alleviate stress for your family after your death.

What’s in a will?

In a will, you will not only specify where you want your assets to go and to whom, but you can address other legal matters as well, including:

  • Designate a guardian to care for minor children
  • Name a caretaker for your pet to eliminate confusion and ensure a smooth transition
  • Leave money to a charitable cause
  • Cover tax considerations if your estate is large

In Minnesota, a will is not required by law but there are special considerations to ensure its validity:

  • An individual must be age 18 and of sound mind
  • A will must be in writing
  • A will must be signed by the individual and two witnesses
  • The individual executing the document must intend for it to operate as a will.

 

Why do I need a will?

Many people think they’re covered by having beneficiaries designated on their life insurance policies. And while those wishes are honored, a will can help fill in the gaps like who gets the car, the antique heirloom dresser or grandma’s dishes – things that may be important to your family members and could potentially cause conflict if not addressed ahead of time.

Even if you don’t have many assets, a will helps you plan for unexpected expenses or payments that may come after your death such as a rental deposit refund or reimbursements of other types. With a will, you appoint an executor who has the authority to properly settle outstanding debts using assets from your estate.

If a person dies without a will, they die intestate, which means that the distribution of assets is governed by state statute. Probate is the process of settling an estate in court and without a will, it takes longer and delays the distribution of assets. Settling an estate intestate can also be more expensive. The bottom line is that having a will saves your family time, stress and money.

Establishing a will ensures that your wishes are honored regarding the distribution of your assets. Additionally, having a will can make the process of setting your estate easier for surviving family members and help to keep the peace during an otherwise stressful and emotional time.