Basic Requirements for a Valid Will

Drafting important legal documents is often a highly technical process with several requirements. Drafting a valid will is no exception to this rule. In the case of a simple will, there are not a large number of requirements for what makes a will actually valid, but those requirements are essential. Failure to follow any of the requirements set out under Minnesota statute can result in a will being ruled invalid by the probate court if it is contested..

In order for a simple will to be valid, it must adhere to the following requirements:

  • The testator must be at least eighteen years of age and of sound mind;
  • It must be in writing;
  • Signed by the testator, or in the alternative, signed by someone in the testator’s conscious presence and at the testator’s instruction; and
  • Signed by two qualified witnesses.

Under 542.2-504, a testator may choose to make the will a “self-proved” will.  To be a self-proving, the will must be executed by the testator in the presence of two suitable witnesses and sealed by a notary. The witnesses must sign self-proving affidavits, as does the testator. The affidavit signed by the testator recites that the testator is signing of his or her free will, is not under undue influence, and is over the age of eighteen. The affidavits for the witnesses state that they are signing within the sight and hearing of the testator, and to the best of their knowledge, the testator is eighteen or over and is signing of his or her own free will.

Although the requirements seem relatively straight forward, it is important to acknowledge that there are nuances and potential complications contained in these provisions. For example, there are requirements in the statute for what is a “qualified witness.” The statute provides that if a person is generally competent to be a witness, he or she may witness the execution of a will. The law also specifically states that just because a person stands to inherit under the provisions of the will does not render that person unqualified.

In the event that a will fails to meet these standards, there can be far-reaching repercussions. If a person challenges the will and it is ruled invalid, the assets of the estate will be distributed pursuant to Minnesota intestacy laws, and not in accordance with the wishes stated by the testator in the will.

Planning for the future of your family and protecting them after you are gone deserves the expert attention of an attorney experienced in estate planning. Contact us today at (651) 371-9117 to talk about your future and your will.