Estate Planning & Probate
Often, such family law legal counsel is infused with business, tax and real estate implications in which we have significant experience.
We understand that the estate planning process involves important decisions that are sometimes difficult. Because of this, many people put off planning their estates.
Our clients are individuals and families of all walks of life and all stages of life. If you are getting married, getting divorced, bringing a child into the family, buying a new home or retiring, you should create or update your estate plan. If you own a small business, we can ensure your business succession planning dovetails with your estate planning.
We are committed to providing guidance and advice to clients during every step of the estate planning process. Our individualized estate planning services put your wishes in writing to provide for your care and avoid unnecessary disputes or delays in settling your estate.
What is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan is a set of documents that protects your interests and your loved ones in the event of your death or a debilitating condition. Without at least a basic will, family members would be faced with difficult decisions, and the state of Minnesota would determine who inherits your property.
Why an Estate Plan?
- With an Estate Plan
- You decide who receives a share of your assets.
- You decide how and when your beneficiaries will receive their inheritance.
- You decide who will manage your estate (personal representative, trustee, etc.).
- You select a guardian for any children.
- You provide for an orderly continuance or sale for a family business.
- You show your family that you cared enough to plan.
Without an Estate Plan
- State laws determine who inherits your assets.
- The terms and timing are set by law. Your children could be left with total and immediate control of a sizeable estate.
- The court appoints administrators who may not share your views on anything.
- Costs are usually greater, due to taxes and administrative expenses.
- Financial loss and hardship may result from an untimely sale.
- Your family is left to guess and argue about what your wishes may have been.
We offer a full range of estate planning, probate and elder law services to clients and can assist with the following: wills, trusts, probate administration, guardianships, conservatorships and elder law.
A properly executed and acknowledged will enables the maker of the will to decide the disposition of his or her estate upon death. No matter the size of your estate, nearly everyone can benefit from having a will prepared. It allows you to divide up your estate in accordance with your specific wishes and offers some guidance to your loved ones as to what your wishes and intentions are.
Within a will you can do the following:
- appoint a personal representative (formerly called an “executor”) to carry out the instructions in your will
- include provisions that nominate a guardian of minor children
- include provisions to protect children financially through a contingent trust for children
- include provisions to help avoid or lower estate taxes,
- make specific bequests, or special gifts, to loved ones
- donate a portion of your estate to charity
Powers of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that grants the person of your choice the power to handle your banking, real or personal property, business, and many other transactions in the event you are physically unavailable to perform them yourself or in the event you become mentally incapacitated.
Health Care Directives (Living Wills)
A Health Care Directive is a legal document that allows an individual to grant to another person the authority to make the individual’s health care decisions when the individual is unable to communicate. It is used to specify the health care you would like to receive under certain circumstances. In addition, it allows you to state your wishes as to how your remains will be handled following your death. In the Health Care Directive, you can state whether you wish to be cremated or buried; whether you wish to donate your organs; and whether you wish for an autopsy to be performed for the purpose of diagnosis, medical education, or research.
A revocable trust allows the grantor (creator) control over the trust assets, as well as the ability to change or terminate the trust at any time. Its use will not reduce federal estate tax. However, provisions can be included in the trust to minimize federal estate tax. The most common reason to establish a revocable trust is to avoid the expense and delay of probate.
Irrevocable trusts may be considered when the estate owner’s primary objective is to obtain federal estate tax savings. When property is placed in an irrevocable trust, the grantor is giving the property away permanently. Since the grantor no longer owns the property, it will most likely not become part of the gross estate and will not be subject to estate tax.
Guardianships in Minnesota
When an individual loses the ability to care for him or herself, intervention of a court is sometimes necessary. When these needs arise, our guardianship attorneys assist clients with initiating guardianship proceedings. This document sets forth whom should be appointed guardian to take care of the physical or financial well-being of an individual during his or her incapacity or illness.
Guardians are appointed by the court to make the personal decisions for protected persons. A protected person is often referred to as a “ward.” A guardian is granted the authority to make decisions on behalf of the ward about where the ward will live, about medical care for the ward, and, when appropriate, how the ward should be educated. A ward might be an adult or elderly person with cognitive deficits, or a ward may be a minor child.
Conservatorships in Minnesota
When an individual loses the ability to care for him or herself, intervention of a court is sometimes necessary. When these needs arise, our conservatorship attorneys assist clients with initiating conservatorship proceedings so that the protected person’s assets are not wasted or lost. Conservatorships are often appropriate where a guardianship has been established.
A conservator is appointed to make financial decisions for a protected person, who is referred to in the proceedings as a “ward” or “conservatee”. After appointment, the conservator may exercise the powers granted by the court, which may include the power to enter into contracts, pay bills, invest assets, and perform other key financial functions for the protected person. A ward might be an adult or elderly person with cognitive deficits, or a ward may be a minor child.
We can help you understand your options as you age and as you face age-related medical concerns. Whether you have questions about social security benefits, nursing home contracts, reverse mortgages, or health care issues, we can provide counseling and advocacy on the issues that aging Minnesotans face each day. We can provide planning and legal advice about Medicare, Medicaid, disability and long-term care decisions. If you are seeking services for yourself or for an aging parent, we are here to help.
Probate Administration and Litigation
If you are appointed as the executor/personal representative for a loved one who has passed away, we provide reasonable rates to help settle the estate as we’ve handled large, complex estates as well as modest estates. We can offer legal advice as you carry out the duties, or I can take on the burdens for you.
We also represent beneficiaries or excluded heirs in will contests over the validity of the deceased’s will or the distribution of certain assets. We understand that these unfortunate disputes can tear families apart. We are skilled in negotiating settlements but also skilled trial lawyers who can vigorously assert your interests in court if necessary.
We often assist children in being appointed as personal representatives when a dispute has arisen about who should be appointed as personal representative when a parent dies. At times, our attorneys also address questions that may arise about the validity of a testamentary document, such as a will.
In a will contest, the outcome can have a significant impact on who receives money and property. It may have significant tax implications. Although a dying person has the right to distribute an estate as he or she sees fit, unscrupulous family members or caregivers sometimes exert inappropriate influence over the dying person, causing the person to sign a will or testamentary document that does not reflect the dying person’s wishes. Under these circumstances, I assist clients with will contests, the goal of which is to obtain a legal determination as to which document should control.