A will typically accomplishes three primary things:
- Names someone to manage your “estate” after your death
- Directs who will receive your “estate” after your death
- Provides instructions about what should happen after your death, including who should care and provide for your children or dependents
Your “estate” includes everything that you own, i.e., furniture, jewelry, bank accounts, business, property and real property.
You can provide very little or very detailed instructions in your will. Usually, a will provides instructions for the care of any children and names a “personal representative” (previously called an executor) to manage and distribute your estate after you die. The personal representative gathers your property, pays any debts and taxes, and distributes the balance of your estate to the people or organizations you have named in your will.
If properly executed, a will remains effective until it is changed or revoked.
If you die without a will, Minnesota law determines who receives all or a portion of your estate. Though there are exceptions in the law, the balance of your estate would usually go to your spouse, if your spouse is still alive. If your spouse dies before you do or you do not have a spouse, the balance of your estate would go to your children. Generally, if you are not survived by a spouse or children, Minnesota law would distribute the balance of your estate to your parents, siblings or nieces and nephews, depending on who among your legal heirs are still alive at the time of your death. If you have no surviving heirs and die without a will, your estate would be paid to the state of Minnesota.
Having a will does not avoid probate. A will is meant to be probated. A will does not avoid probate but it does simply the probate process. The probate process is a court proceeding (usually in probate court) where the court validates your will and appoints a personal representative to manage and settle your estate. If you are concerned about your estate going through the probate process, contact me and I can help you decide the best plan for your circumstances.
Your will should be periodically reviewed, particularly if something has changed, to ensure the will still expresses your wishes.
You should consider reviewing and changing your will when:
- You marry or divorce
- If there is a birth or death in the family
- A named guardian for your children dies or is no longer available
- The type of or value of your property changes significantly
- You move to another state.
A personal representative does not handle your affairs while you are living. A will takes effect only after your death. If you want someone to handle your affairs if you become disabled or incompetent, other options, including health care directive and financial power of attorney should be considered.
Contact me online and I can assist you in determining the best options for your situation.