The term “Estate Planning” simply refers to the process of making a Will as well as executing other important documents such as a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Directive. Estate Planning is not just for the well-to-do, it is for everyone! Estate planning attorneys help you determine the best options. If you own assets, no matter how big or small, you need a Will. If you want help managing and planning your financial affairs if you become incapacitated or die, you need a Will. If you own real estate you wish to pass on to your loved ones or a special charity, you need a Will. Consulting with an Estate Planning attorney to explore options that are right for you. These can often be difficult decisions and can lead to major conflicts if not spelled out in a Will or directive.
As estate planning attorneys, we like to answer this questions with this statement, "If you do not have a Will upon your death, the State of Minnesota will make one for you." These laws are called the Laws of Intestate Succession, which are state laws for deciding who will inherit your property. If you have a Will, the Laws of Intestate Succession are not triggered and your wishes documented in your Will are carried out.
What are your Will options?
There are two main types of Wills
Our Estate Planning attorneys can help you decide which type is right for you, along with what information is needed to put in the Will to make it complete and to make it formal when it is signed. If you already have your Will executed, remember to review it every 3-5 years and update if major changes have taken place, such as marriage, divorce, death of a spouse/partner, if your children are adults – or if you win the lottery!
A Power of Attorney is an important Estate Planning document that is effective while you are alive. This document allows you to authorize someone you trust to act on your behalf to manage your financial affairs. This person is known as your Attorney in Fact, and you get to choose how much authority you give them – whether it's to conduct all of your affairs or just the affairs you specify, you can indicate if you want the Power of Attorney to expire if you become incompetent or incapacitated and if you want it to remain valid after incapacitation occurs (commonly referred to as a Durable Power of Attorney).
Do You Need a Power of Attorney?
It is a common misconception that just by virtue of being married your spouse will have all the power needed to assist you if, for example, you are in a coma and are unable to manage all of your financial affairs. However this is not the case in Minnesota. Your spouse will not be able to access any assets or accounts that are in your name only. Your spouse may or may not be able to deal with the necessary government entities required to apply for disability benefits you may need, depending on confidentiality requirements, without either a Durable Power of Attorney or a Conservatorship. In order for your spouse or a trusted person to do this on your behalf, a court action would be required and that means time, attorney’s fees and court costs.
To avoid this scenario, whether or not you are married, you can choose a trusted person to be your Attorney in Fact to handle your finances if and when you become unable or unwilling to do so. You still have the right to manage your finances in the meantime, but the person who is appointed will be able to share in that responsibility.
A Health Care Directive is similar to a Power of Attorney except it deals with important medical decisions. The trusted person you appoint to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so is called your Health Care Agent. This important document allows you to express your medical wishes to your doctor and loved ones, and alleviates the pressure on your family members for having to make your end of life decisions for you. You may also indicate if you would like to give your Health Care Agent the authority to donate your organs and to decide what to do with your body (ie, cremation vs. burial).
There are tools available to transfer ownership of your real estate and avoid probate court. You can transfer ownership of real estate to one or more people as well as retain some or all ownership in your property until you pass away. Our experienced Estate Planning lawyers can explain what options are best depending on what type of ownerships interests you have in your real estate, and what your wishes are.
Call our Estate Planning attorneys at 763-425-6330 for a free 1/2 hour consultation. We can answer all of your questions and guide you through the process to ensure that your wishes are carried out.