Must I Have a Will?

Skipping the writing of a Will may harmfully disrupt family dynamics, may result in distributions that you didn’t want or intend, and may increase the costs of settling your estate.

A Will, properly executed under Minnesota law, is your legal instruction to your survivors as to how you want your estate divvied up after you die.

If you don’t have a Will, Minnesota law has a plan for you, which you may not like.

For example, without a Will, your heirs under state law will split your assets equally even though you may have preferred an unequal distribution.

Sometimes an unequal distribution is preferred, such as when only one of your children has been laboring at artificially low wages in the family business, and you desire that he or she own the business after your death. Without a Will, your business may need to be sold so that the money from the sale of your business can be equally divided among your heirs.

Or perhaps one of your children has made a career and financial sacrifice to act as your caretaker during the last years of your life. If you want that child to receive a higher percentage of your estate in appreciation of his or her sacrifice, a Will could accommodate that desire.

The statutes that provide that your descendants inherit equally when there is no Will don’t recognize that you may have already paid to put your oldest children through college whereas the younger children have yet to attend college.

If you want charitable organizations or friends to inherit any of your assets, you need a Will. Without a Will, Minnesota law provides that only certain relatives inherit your assets.

Thus, you have better control if you create a Will. You select who should inherit, and select what they should inherit.

(Note, however, that not all of your assets will transfer based on your Will even when you do have a Will. Examples of assets that are not impacted by a Will include jointly held assets, assets held in a Revocable Living Trust, assets marked at banks as Payable-on-Death (P.O.D.) accounts or at investment firms as Transfer-on-Death (T.O.D.) accounts, and (typically) assets that have beneficiary designations such as retirement accounts and life insurance.)

If you have children under the age of 18, a Will is particularly important because a Will nominates a guardian for your minor children if both parents die.

Without a Will, even children as young as age 18 are entitled to their full inheritance in Minnesota as soon as your estate can be settled. With a Will, you can provide under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act that the inheritance be managed by a custodian until the child is 21 years of age.

Without a Will, the State of Minnesota also sets up a priority of choices for appointment as the personal representative, who is the person that handles the administration of your estate. With a Will, you nominate the personal representative.

All in all, a Will arguably helps keep the family peace. Without a Will, your intentions as to the transfer of your assets may not be clear. When family members know your intent via your Will, fewer arguments are likely.

©2018 Wittenburg Law Office, PLLC. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This Blog is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. If you have questions, please seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in the state where you live. Wittenburg Law does not expressly or implicitly warrant the accuracy or reliability of any of the Blog’s contents. An attorney-client relationship is not formed by reading this Blog. If you are interested in Wittenburg Law’s representation of you, you must contact Wittenburg Law for a determination of whether your matter is one for which Wittenburg Law is willing and able to accept representation of you.

Bonnie Wittenburg, Wittenburg Law Office, PLLC, 601 Carlson Parkway, Suite 1050, Minnetonka, MN 55305 952-649-9771