7 Secrets to Drafting a Successful Will.

By Chris Tymchuck
Founding Attorney

Writing a Will is something everybody should do.  With a Will, you can name a guardian for your minor children, decide who gets your assets, and appoint someone to sort out your estate.  A properly drafted Will should help maintain family harmony, negate confusion and minimize any time your family has to spend in court.  A Will certainly shouldn’t cause family conflict or confusion or require your family to spend thousands of dollars and hours in court just to determine your wishes.  However, since you won’t be around to witness how your Will actually functions, you should take steps now to ensure that your Will does exactly what you want.  Below are the 7 Secrets of a Successful Will:

1. Make sure your Will has been signed correctly.

While it may seem like common sense that you need to sign your Will, how it is signed and by whom can make a big difference.  The signature must be witnessed by two people and notarized.  When a Will is witnessed and notarized, Minnesota courts will automatically accept the Will as authentic and allow the parties to proceed with a simplified informal probate.  If the Will is not notarized, a witness to the Will must testify in court regarding the authenticity of the Will.  As such, the best practice is to have the Will notarized.

2.  Explain decisions you made in your Will.

Sometimes a testator’s asset distribution plan does not sit well with the heirs.  This can lead to family fighting, discontent and confusion.  It can also lead to costly and time consuming court battles.  While your Will is not the proper place to explain your decisions, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explain them at all.  Often a testator will write a letter to his or her loved ones and keep the letter with the Will.  The letter should explain why the testator made the decisions set forth in the Will, including why a gift was made to a charitable organization, or why one child’s share of the assets is larger or smaller than the other children’s shares.  A letter can also help demonstrate that the testator was competent at the time the Will was made and evidence the testator’s intent to make the Will. A little communication may save your family time, money and emotional pain.

3.  Pick the right personal representative.

In your Will, you need to name a personal representative.  A personal representative is responsible for wrapping up your estate.  This task includes gathering your assets, giving notice to creditors, paying your creditors, filing your last tax return and distributing your assets as set forth in your Will.  Given the importance of these tasks, picking the right personal representative is crucial.  You want to pick someone who is responsible and organized, and who you trust to handle everything you worked for throughout your life.  Depending on the size of your estate, it can be a big job.  Make sure you pick someone who is capable of achieving your goals of preserving family harmony, negating confusion and minimizing any time your family has to spend in court.

4.  Consider a “money manager” for assets left to minor children.

A large part of your reason for making is Will may be that you have minor children.  You likely named a guardian for your minor children in your Will, but did you name someone to manage the assets left to the children?  Since minor children (under the age of 18) cannot hold assets in their own name, someone must hold and manage the assets

About the Author
As a Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate attorney I help build and protect families through the adoption, estate planning, and probate processes. I also have experience working with families on issues related to their small businesses. I know how difficult it is to find time to plan for the future and I am here to help walk you through it.