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Attorney General Marty Jackley

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Everyone should have a will. A will is a written document that states what you want to have happen to your property after your death. Your will should ensure that your assets go to the person that you want to receive them.

Generally, a will allows for a smoother transfer of your property after death.

If you do not have a will, your property will be distributed as outlined by the law.
Without a will, you essentially have no say in the distribution of your property.

In addition to distribution of property, wills also allow you to provide for the guardianship of a minor child, create trusts, and save state and federal estate taxes.

There are legal requirements which must be met for a will to be valid in South Dakota. The law requires that the maker of the will be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. The will must be written, signed, and witnessed by two or more individuals.

No witnesses are necessary if the will is dated and if the signature and material portions of the will are in the handwriting of the person making the will. This is called a holographic will.

Creating a will is important regardless of the size of your estate. Your will is valid until it is changed or revoked. It should be reviewed periodically and revised when there are changes in the size or value of your estate. It should also be reviewed if your family status changes, the federal estate tax laws change, or you move to another state.

Your will allows you to name a personal representative or trustee to handle the distribution of your estate. You may also designate alternates or co-representatives. As with choosing any trustee, you should choose someone you can trust to execute your will as you have written.

Because of legal details of wills, it is best to contact an attorney to help you draft your will. They will be able to draft it in a way that meets your needs for a limited cost.