Wills 101

A will is a written statement directing who will wrap up your financial affairs and who will receive your money and other property when you die. A will is one of the oldest and most time-honored legal documents in existence. The property left in your name alone at the time of your death is called your “estate.” The ones you name in your will to receive your property upon your death are called “beneficiaries” or “devisees.” The person named in your will to be in charge of your estate when you die is called the “personal representative” or “executor.” (The state legislature changed the term to “personal representative” in about 1978 as part of an effort to get away from words specifying gender.)

The job of the personal representative is to investigate what you own at the time of your death, make a list of all of your property, collect all of your property, care for your property until it is sold or passed on to the people you have selected, pay your bills, file your final tax returns and finish up any other financial business required of your estate after your death. Once everything is completed in wrapping up your financial matters, the remaining money or other property can be distributed to the beneficiaries named in your will.

Each state sets formal requirements for the creation of a valid will. In Minnesota, the maker of the will must be 18 years old and of sound mind, the will must be written, and the will must be signed and witnessed in a specific manner as prescribed by law.

A will may be changed as often as changes in circumstances or choices dictate. Changing a will, rather than starting over with a new one, is done by a “codicil,” which must be executed in the same manner as the will. It is often easier and better in the long run to just write a new one — whoever gets shorted by the later change will be tempted to say, “Dad (or Mom or Aunt Grace) lost went dotty in there, somehow.”

Money and property held in joint ownership, such as a bank account or house, automatically passes to the surviving co-owners upon the death of one owner. Similarly, property held in trust or in a payable-on-death account automatically passes to the named beneficiary upon the death of the owner. Finally, life insurance proceeds automatically pass to the named beneficiary on the death of the insured. These types of property are called “nonprobate assets” and not affected by your will. Keep in mind that your particular circumstances may call for relabeling such assets so they are included in your will. If so, such can be arranged with an attorney’s assistance. Also, please note that nonprobate assets can be brought back into the probate estate under certain circumstances.

Where There Is A Will There Is Protection. Make The Call And Start Planning Today.

Do not leave your loved ones without a plan in place. Planning now can ensure the estate administration process reduces the stress and anxiety on your family when you are no longer here. To take advantage of a phone consult with my law firm, David K. Porter, please call 612-722-1001 or contact me online.