If an individual makes a will, he can ensure that his property and assets are distributed according to his own wishes after he dies. Failing to write a legally valid will means that the state makes these decisions. In Minnesota, the law relating to last wills and testaments can be found in Chapter 524 of the Minnesota Statutes, also known as the Uniform Probate Code. Any person may make a will, provided he is over 18 years of age and of sound mind.
Writing a Will
According to Section 524.2-502, all wills must be in writing and, therefore, oral wills are not legally valid. The writer of a will – known as the testator – must sign it, or direct another person to sign it on his behalf and in his presence. Two individuals must witness the signature and also sign the will, within a reasonable time after the testator has signed. The fact that a witness is also a beneficiary does not invalidate the will in Minnesota.
Separate List of Property
In most cases, it’s a good idea to list all property owned by the testator in a will. However, Minnesota laws allow a testator to refer to a written statement or list to dispose of certain items not specifically referred to in the will. Certain items are excluded from this provision including money, coin collections and property used in business: all these must be referred to in the actual will. The written statement or list must be referred to in the will and must be signed by the testator or be in his handwriting. The statement can be prepared before or after the will has been signed and it may be altered subsequently by the testator.
Changing a Will
If a testator wishes to make small changes to his will, he may write a short document, known as a codicil. He must sign the codicil in the presence of two witnesses. A testator may write more than one codicil, but should make sure that they are placed with the will, to avoid any uncertainty when he dies.
Revoking a Will
If a testator changes his mind regarding his will, he may revoke it simply by writing a subsequent will. The subsequent will may state that it revokes the prior will. If not, then the law assumes that the subsequent will intends to replace the prior will if it disposes of the testator’s estate in its entirety. He may also perform a “revocatory act,” defined in Section 542.2-507 as burning, tearing, obliterating, canceling or destroying the will.