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Taking advantage of the basic will to express a person's wishes

Most Saint Paul residents would like to think they have many years remaining to live. At the same time, individuals understand that any day could be the last one for a person on Earth, as accidents and other incidents occur that can unexpectedly take a person's life.

While these incidents may not be pleasant to think about, it can take away some of the anxiety if a person is prepared for all outcomes. Preparation can be key to ensuring that one's assets are properly transferred upon death, and that even more important matters are taken care of, such as the care of minor children.

One key tool that is widely known about, but not always used as much as it should be, is a will. Wills allow individuals to express their wishes in writing, so that the person's money and property will be distributed at their death as their wish. While wills are not required, they can be vital to ensuring that a person's wishes are followed and that other unintended consequences do not occur, such as increased taxes or family disputes.

In Minnesota, the requirements for making a will are fairly simple. Individuals must be at least 18-years-old and have the mental capacity necessary to execute a will. The will typically must be in writing and signed by the person making it. It also needs to be witnessed by at least two other individuals, who must sign the will as well.

While these requirements are rather basic, the actual contents of a will can vary widely from person to person. Some individuals want or need to have more elaborate provisions, such as where they have particular assets that need to be provided for in a certain manner. Others might be more interested in providing guardianship provisions for their children. Still other individuals might decide to pour their assets over into a trust, which can be set up in a more flexible way in some circumstances.

Ultimately, what is right for a person's will depends on his or her individual circumstances. For the most part, however, the one constant between different persons is having a will or other estate planning documents in place to begin with, in order to ensure the person's wishes are followed.

Source: Minnesota State Law Library, "Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning," accessed on Sept. 19, 2014

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