Who Do I Have to Leave Assets to in a Will?

A woman and her mother sit on a bench outside, reviewing legal documents.Planning for the future can be an exciting time, as you think about your goals and dreams and how you may be able to achieve those benchmarks. An estate plan can help you achieve your goals by providing stability and structure. One of the most common documents included in estate plans is a last will and testament. In your last will and testament, you can select a personal representative to be responsible for administering your estate, name a preferred guardian for your minor children, and specify how you would like your assets to be distributed. Many people wonder whether they are obligated to leave assets to particular people in the last will and testament.

The short answer to this question is “no.” You can name anyone you choose in your last will and testament, ranging from your closest relatives to your favorite charity. There is no law providing that you are required to name your spouse or even your minor children in your will. That said, your decision to leave particular people out of your will does not mean they will not inherit or receive a part of your estate. Under Minnesota law, your surviving spouse may claim what is called the “elective share” of the estate even if you have attempted to disinherit him or her in your will. The longer you and your spouse have been married, the larger the portion of the estate your spouse can claim. In other words, even if you try to leave your spouse with a minimal inheritance or even no inheritance, your spouse can still claim a portion of your estate.

In addition to an elective share, Minnesota statute 524.2-404 provides a surviving spouse or minor children shall be provided with a reasonable family allowance out of the estate. The amount of the allowance will be determined by the personal representative, but shall not exceed $2,300 per month.  The length of time that the allowance will be paid depends on whether there are adequate assets to discharge the debts of the estate. The family allowance has priority over all other claims on the estate, including any allowable debts.

There are many important considerations when drafting your last will and testament. Call us today at (651) 371-9117 and talk with us about your estate plan.