A will is probably the most common tool used in estate planning.  There are three major reasons for having a will.  First, and most importantly, a properly drafted will assures that your property will end up in the hands of the people you want it to end up with.  Secondly, the use of a properly drafted will keeps the amount of taxes paid to a minimum.  Finally, a properly drafted will provides stability and certainty for you and your loved ones.

Although everyone knows about wills, many people die without one.  When someone dies without a will, their “estate” (all of their property – money, land, stamp collection, the family jewels, etc.) passes to their heirs according to the statute of intestate succession.  “Intestate” simply means dying without a will.

Generally, in North Dakota, when a person dies (they’re referred to as a “decedent”), the entire estate will pass to their surviving spouse if there are no surviving children and no surviving parents or if all of the decedent’s surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse.  However, where a decedent has children from a previous marriage, the surviving spouse gets the first $100,000 of the estate and the remainder will be divided evenly among the children of the decedent.  If there are no children, the surviving spouse gets the initial $200,000 and three-fourths of the remainder of the estate.  The remaining twenty-five percent passes to the decedent’s parents.  If there are not any surviving parents or children, it would go to the decedent’s brothers and sisters, or nieces and nephews, or to their aunts and uncles, in that order.  If there are no persons to take under the statute, then all of the property goes to the State.

To an average person, this may be exactly how they would want their property distributed after they’re gone, so they will say “I don’t need a will.”  However, there are a number of other aspects of a will, both tax-related and otherwise, that are important and should be considered before someone determines whether or not they should have a will.

Our attorneys are well versed and practiced in estate planning and will drafting.  They, along with our experienced staff, can help you write a will that best serves your needs.

In order to help us develop the best estate plan for you, we have prepared a Wills and Estate Planning Questionnaire from which we should be able to get all the information needed to complete a draft of your Will(s) and preparing other estate planning devices.  However, there may be some unique facts and circumstances in your case requiring further inquiry in order to properly plan your estate.  If this is the case, you may need to explain further in the space provided in the questionnaire.  ONLY ONE FORM NEEDS TO BE COMPLETED PER COUPLE.  Please click on the link above to fill out the questionnaire, which is in a PDF format and can be printed with your home computer.