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Helping You Navigate Complex Legal Issues

Why wills are important in Minnesota

Gregory A. Lang

Writing a will may be something that many people tend to put off, and some do not understand why they are important to have in the first place. A person who dies without a will is said to have died intestate. In such an event, under state law governing intestacy the court will allocate and distribute the decedent's property to those who fall into the categories set forth in the applicable statute, even if the person wished to have passed them to different intended beneficiaries or in different percentages.

This can have the unintended effect of disinheriting some people. For example, if a person has children from a prior relationship but dies without a will, his or her new spouse may inherit the assets rather than those children from the prior marriage.

In contrast, a valid will serves to protect and carry out the wishes of the testator with respect to the ultimate recipients of estate assets. Wills can serve other important purposes as well. Such a document, for example, can contain a provision appointing a trusted person to serve as guardian of the testator's minor children if the testator is the surviving parent at the time the will is made.

It is important for people to consider wills as a way in which they may be able to protect both their estates and their intended beneficiaries after they die. People may want to discuss the preparation of a will along with other documents such as a trust and appropriate health care directives with their estate planning attorney. It is important that the will be prepared and executed properly and in accordance with state law in order to avoid future challenges to its validity.

Source: American Bar Association, "Introduction to Wills", accessed on March 7, 2015

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