Making a Will in Minnesota

How to make a will in Minnesota and what can happen if you don't.

Updated by , Attorney · George Mason University Law School

Steps to Create a Will in Minnesota

Here's a quick checklist for making a will in Minnesota:

  1. Decide what property to include in your will.
  2. Decide who will inherit your property.
  3. Choose an executor to handle your estate.
  4. Choose a guardian for your children.
  5. Choose someone to manage children's property.
  6. Make your will.
  7. Sign your will in front of witnesses.
  8. Store your will safely.

What Can I Do With a Minnesota Will?

A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:

  • leave your property to people or organizations
  • name a personal guardian to care for your minor children
  • name a trusted person to manage property you leave to minor children, and
  • name a personal representative, the person who makes sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

What Happens If I Don't Have a Will?

In Minnesota, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Minnesota's intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. (Minn. Stat. §§ 524.2-101; 524.2-102; 524.2-103 (2023).)

This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property. (Minn. Stat § 524.2-105 (2023).)

Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in Minnesota?

No. You can make your own will in Minnesota, using Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or you have especially complicated goals, you should talk with an attorney. See Do I Need an Attorney to Make My Estate Plan?

What Are the Requirements for Making a Will in Minnesota?

To make a will in Minnesota, you must be:

  • an individual 18 years of age or older, and
  • of sound mind.

(Minn. Stat. § 524.2-501 (2023).)

A will must be in writing (digital or printed on paper) and can't be an audio or video recording. Most people continue to make traditional wills on paper. But, in 2023, Minnesota made electronic wills legal. (See "Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?," below.) (Minn. Stat. §§ 524.1-201; 524.2-502 (2023).)

Minnesota does not allow handwritten (holographic) wills, but it does recognize wills that were made in another state that follow that state's laws. (Minn. Stat. § 524.2-506 (2023).)

How Do I Sign a Minnesota Will?

To finalize your will in Minnesota:

  • you must sign or acknowledge your will in front of two witnesses, and
  • your witnesses must sign your will within a "reasonable time" after you sign or acknowledge it.

(Minn. Stat. § 524.2-502 (2023).)

In general, it's safer to have the witnesses present with you in case there's any question about your mental capacity or the authenticity of your signature. But Minnesota does allow remote witnessing of wills. Remote witnessing lets you and your witnesses sign the will in separate locations while while watching each other through a real-time remote audio-visual call. (Minn. Stat. § 524.1-201 (2023).)

If you are not able to sign your will because of a mental or physical limitation, you can instruct someone else to sign your will in front of you, or your conservator can sign your will with a court order. (Minn. Stat. § 524.2-502 (2023).)

Although Minnesota allows an "interested" person who will inherit from you to serve as a witness, that might not be a good idea. You might want only disinterested witnesses so that there is no appearance that someone was coercing you into signing your will. (Minn. Stat. § 524.2-505 (2023).)

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

No, in Minnesota, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.

However, Minnesota allows you to make your will "self-proving" and you'll need to use a notary if you want to do that. A self-proving will speeds up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it.

To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses will use a notary and sign an affidavit that proves who you are and that each of you knew you were signing the will. You can sign the affidavit in the physical presence of the notary or with the notary appearing remotely in real time through audio-video communication. (Minn. Stat. §§ 524.1-201; 524.2-504 (2023).)

Should My Will Name a Personal Representative?

Yes. In Minnesota, you can use your will to name a personal representative who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust produces a letter to your personal representative that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name a personal representative, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.

Can I Revoke or Change My Will?

In Minnesota, you may revoke or change your will at any time by:

  • making a new will that says it revokes the old will or has contradictory terms to the old will, or
  • burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying all or part of the old will.

(Minn. Stat. § 524.2-507 (2023).)

Minnesota law presumes you intended to replace your old will with the new one if you disposed of all of your estate in your new will. If you didn't dispose of all of your estate, Minnesota law presumes you only wanted your new will to add to the old one. In this situation, your executor should follow the instructions in both wills. If you have a contradictory term in your wills, your executor should follow the instructions in the new will. (Minn. Stat. § 524.2-507 (2023).)

If you and your spouse divorce (or if a court determines that your marriage is not legal), Minnesota law revokes any language in your will that leaves property to your spouse or names your spouse to be your executor. However, if you happen to remarry your ex or if you specifically state in your will (or divorce decree) that divorce should not affect the provisions in your will, then these rules won't apply. If you have any concerns about the effects of divorce on your will, see an estate planning attorney for help. (Minn. Stat. § 524.2-804 (2023).)

If you need to make changes to your will, it's best to revoke it and make a new one. However, if you have only very simple changes to make, you could add an amendment to your existing will – this is called a codicil. In either case, you will need to finalize your changes with the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above).

Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?

As of August 2023, Minnesota allows electronic wills (e-wills). An e-will is a will that you can make, sign, and have witnessed in a digital format without ever printing it out. (Minn. Stat. § 524.1-201 (2023).)

Because the requirements for making a valid e-will are somewhat complicated and the concept is still fairly new, e-wills are still not commonplace. For more details on e-wills, see What Is an Electronic Will?

Where Can I Find Minnesota's Laws About Making Wills?

You can find Minnesota's laws about making wills here: Minnesota Statutes Probate, Property, Estates, Guardianships, Anatomical Gifts Chapter 524 Uniform Probate Code Article 2 Intestate Succession and Wills Part 5 Wills.

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