Do you need a Will if you live in Minnesota?
The answer is “yes” if you want to control who receives your probate assets after you die, or if you have minor children. A Will is the only way that parents can hand-pick a guardian to take care of their children under the age of 18 if both parents die.
Why did the previous paragraph contain the qualifier “probate” assets? Doesn’t a Will cover all my assets? What is a probate asset?
A Will does not cover all your assets. It covers only probate assets. To define “probate asset”, it’s helpful to understand what doesn’t qualify as a probate asset in Minnesota. The following are not probate assets: assets that are jointly held; assets that were held by the trustee of your revocable living trust; assets designated at your bank as payable-on-death or at an investment firm as transfer-on-death accounts; and assets that have beneficiary designations such as life insurance and retirement assets. (Note, however, that if you designate “my estate” as the beneficiary (which is typically not recommended), you’ve suddenly made the asset a probate asset.) In some situations a Transfer on Death Deed for your real estate will transform that asset to a non-probate asset. Assets not on the above list are probate assets.
A Will is how you exercise control over your probate assets. Without a Will, the state of Minnesota has a law that dictates what happens to your assets after your death, and you may not like that distribution. The applicable Minnesota statute for the no-Will situation depends on various factors, such as whether there’s a surviving spouse, whether you have surviving children, and whether you have children from an earlier marriage.
A Will gives you control — that you otherwise would not have — to control who gets what of your probate assets, and in what proportion.
A Will also enables you to nominate someone to be the personal representative – i.e. the person who administers your estate after your death. Your act of selecting someone as personal representative may help avoid fights among your relatives after your death.
Consult with an estate planning lawyer to consider the strategy that might best meet your goals.
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