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A will is a simple way to ensure that your money, property and personal belongings will be distributed as you wish after your death. A will also allows you to have full use of your property while you are alive.
If you die without a will, Minnesota’s inheritance laws will control how your estate will be divided. Your property will go to your closest relatives. If you have a spouse and children, the property will go to them by a set formula. If not, the property will descend in the following order: grandchildren, parents, brothers and sisters, or more distant relatives if there are no closer ones. A table of Minnesota Heirship is available here.
You may not need a will if you have made provisions so that your assets will pass without one, for example, by establishing trusts, life insurance policies with named beneficiaries, or joint property interests such as real estate or bank accounts.
A will is necessary if you want to leave property to a friend or a charity, to give certain items to certain people, or to leave someone out who would otherwise inherit from you. You may also wish to appoint a specific person to handle your estate. Thus, often it is best to write a will so your intentions can be met.
Probating a will begins by filing an application with the probate court. Probate ends when all debts and taxes are paid and all assets are distributed. If there is disagreement over your will, a probate judge will resolve the differences.
Having a will does not avoid probate. The need for probate depends on what property you own and whether you own it alone or with others.