TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Do I need an Estate Plan in Minnesota?
- What happens if I don't have an Estate Plan?
- What is 'Intestate Succession'?
- What is "Guardianship" and "Conservatorship"?
- Isn't Estate Planning difficult and expensive?
- Should I be concerned that you use an Estate Planning software suite rather than creating your own original documents?
- I don't need no stinking Estate Plan! My family knows what I want.
- Will your Estate be required to go through Probate?
- Don't just leave assets... Leave a Legacy!
- How do I begin my personalized Minnesota Estate Plan?
Do I Need an Estate Plan in Minnesota?
“Do I need an Estate Plan?” is a question everyone should eventually ask themselves. Unfortunately, the answer is: No. You are not required by Minnesota law to have an Estate Plan.
Why is that 'unfortunate'? The truth of the matter is: If you don’t prepare your own Minnesota Estate Plan, you will be assigned an Estate Plan that has already been prepared for you. “Who already made an Estate Plan for me?” – you may ask? Simply put: the State.
What happens if I don’t have an Estate Plan?
Minnesota does have default rules in place on how to manage the assets of Minnesota residents (and non-residents that own an interest in real estate in Minnesota) who failed to make their own Estate Plan. It is called "Intestate Succession".
Furthermore, Estate Planning is not only for management of your assets after your death. What if you become disabled, incapacitated or incompetent and are unable to continue making decision for yourself but you haven’t planned for it? Guess what? Minnesota has plans for that, too. They're called "Guardianship" and "Conservatorship".
And we all know the government will always make the best, and least-expensive decisions regarding the management of your assets, your healthcare and the care of your family, right? Of course not!
So, even though you are not required to have an Estate Plan, every Minnesotan should have an estate plan!
What is ‘Intestate Succession’?
‘Intestacy’ is the state of dying without a valid Will, or one does with a Will but some assets were not addressed by the Will. When a person dies without having a valid and complete Will in place, his or her property passes by what is called intestate succession to heirs according to state law.
NOTE: if the Will doesn’t address all assets but is otherwise valid, it is only the assets that were not addressed in the valid Will which will pass by intestate succession.
The purpose of intestate succession statutes is to distribute the decedent's wealth in a manner that closely represents how the average person would have designed his or her estate plan, had that person had a will.
However, this default can differ dramatically from what the person really would have wanted. Even where it is known what the person intended, no exceptions are made if no valid Will exists – regardless of need or special circumstances.
In other words, if you pass away without a valid and complete Will, a judge will distribute your property by the rules of intestate succession. Period – regardless of what you said or whatever your intended wishes.
What is "Guardianship" and "Conservatorship"?
Simply put, Guardianship and Conservatorship are court processes which can require several court hearings where your loved-ones will be forced to fight for control of your healthcare decision-making as well as the handling of your finances and assets.
At the conclusion of the hearings, the court will appoint a ‘Guardian’ to make all your medical-related decisions, and a 'Conservator' to make all financial and legal decisions for you on matters in which you are deemed unable to make on your own. Your Guardianship and Conservatorship will be overseen by the court.
Additionally, you should know that a Judge is not required to appoint your spouse or other loved one as your Guardian or Conservator – they are free to appoint whomever they see fit.
Often a judge will prefer to appoint a known local attorney with experience in asset management to manage the ward’s assets and finances (“ward” is the term used for the person who is determined to need a Guardian or Conservator).
Guardianship and/or Conservatorship proceedings can be extremely expensive – and painful – for your loved ones.
Who willingly wants to put their loved ones through that? And ultimately – even if you don’t have family or loved-ones – who do you want in control of you, your assets, your medical care, and your family’s future if something happens to you?
Do you want it to be the government – and whomever they choose, who will then make decisions as they deem best and discuss your healthcare and estate in a public courtroom? Or do you want it to be someone you choose and who will keep all of your matters private?
Isn’t Estate Planning difficult and expensive?
Not really. Basic Estate Planning is not difficult nor expensive – especially if you consider the court costs, attorney fees, court-appointed specialists costs (namely related to your finances and health care), the waste of time and the unnecessary stress you will be piling onto your loved ones at an already stressful time.
At the Maki Law Firm, I use a peer-reviewed and respected Estate Planning software suite created by Estate Planning Attorneys for Estate Planning Attorneys - making your experience fast and easy!
How? I will provide you with a questionnaire asking basic questions about your assets and wishes. Your answers will then be entered into my software suite to create a complete and organized Estate Plan that will address all of your assets, wishes and concerns – as well as be fully compliant with Minnesota law.
I will then meticulously review your completed Plan to ensure all the details are accurate and all i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. Then will send you the final version in convenient PDF format for you to review. Any last minute changes you desire can still be made. Upon your final approval, I will provide instructions on how to execute your documents (‘execute’ is legal jargon for making sure everything has proper signatures, necessary documents are Notarized, etc.).
Once your Estate Plan is executed, you can sit back, relax, and congratulate yourself for a job well done! You can rest assured knowing that you, your assets, and your family will be taken care of if something were to happen to you.
Should I be concerned that you use an Estate Planning software suite rather than creating your own original documents?
No, actually the opposite is true. You should be more concerned about an Estate Planning lawyer who doesn’t use a software suite.
Why? Because though who use their own in-house documents may think their documents will provide the protections you are looking for, their documents might not have been peer-reviewed (reviewed by other attorneys), tested in the courts, nor updated to reflect recent changed in the law or trends in the estate planning field.
Therefore, you won’t be sure that your documents will hold up when you need them the most – e.g. when someone disagrees with your decisions and decides to try to challenge them in court.
On the other hand, my software suite has been used by thousands of attorneys throughout the country, creates Minnesota-specific documents, and is updated regularly to reflect changes in Minnesota law as well as trends seen in estate planning throughout the country.
I don't need no stinking Estate Plan! My family knows what I want.
Maybe they know some of your wishes, but do they know them all? And even if they do, they might not have the authority to make those decisions for you – which would likely lead to the Guardianship and/or Intestacy proceeding mentioned above.
Also, it may be possible that they do know your wishes and do have the authority to make the decisions but are simply unable to follow through.
For example, maybe you tell them, "I don't want to live like a vegetable on life support." Seems pretty straight-forward. But when it comes down to it, what if they just can’t bear the responsibility that comes with “pulling the plug”. And maybe not everyone heard you say that and doesn’t agree “that is what [he/she] would want”. Think about what you are doing to your loved ones by forcing them to make the decision to end your life...
However, if you put your wishes in writing, signed with your own signature, then there can be no question. The weight you take off the decision-maker would be unmeasurable.
The same goes with your assets. There can be no disagreements over “[He/She] said X was going to me", etc. if it is all laid out in an organized and comprehensive Estate Plan.
Will your Estate be required to go through Probate?
Probate is a court process which can be time-consuming and will cause the details of your estate to be public record.
If Probate is required for your estate, will your loved ones know what to do? They likely won't. So what will they do?
Some will try to do everything themselves – and make mistakes. Mistakes that can be costly, time-consuming, and cause unnecessary tension and friction between family members.
Others will likely just Google estate attorneys and select someone while not in their right mind (as stress greatly affects our decision-making abilities) and can agree to terms that don't express your wishes and/or are unnecessarily expensive.
Unfortunately, both are common occurrences simply because those you leave behind don’t understand what your wishes were, what needs to be done and/or they just “don’t want to deal with it” themselves.
Closing an Estate can be a difficult and stressful work (yes, it is work), not to mention time-consuming and expensive when/if mistakes are made. Therefore, your loved ones are unlikely to be able (or want) to do it themselves.
And why would you pile the stress of your decision-making failure on them at such a difficult time? You aren’t doing them any favors. In fact, most will just pass off the duties of closing your Estate by hastily hiring a local attorney.
However, choosing the wrong attorney can be very wasteful in terms of time and money. A bad choice can greatly add to the stress your loved ones are already under, as well as add to the fees and costs billed to your final estate.
But, you can make the tough decisions now which will reduce those fees and costs and eliminate all of the unnecessary decision-making stress on your loved ones later.
Costs incurred by hiring an attorney after-the-fact will likely cost a lot more than simple Estate Planning would have – thereby reducing the overall value of the Estate you pass on.
Don’t just leave Assets… Leave a Legacy!
When I say “Leave a Legacy”, it isn’t just about leaving your heirs with a pile of money or property (which I hope you are fortunate enough to do) – rather, the “Legacy” I speak of has to do with HOW you leave your assets.
A Legacy is thinking about, caring for, and planning for your loved ones and the long-lasting effect that planning will have on them.
Your loved ones will remember you for not just what you left behind, but of how thoughtfully you planned for them.
They will remember that at a time when they were under a great amount of despair and stress (your passing), you ensured they had to do nothing except focus on their grieving process.
Because You already put someone in charge of paying your debts and closing your accounts.
Because You put someone responsible in charge of making sure all of your assets were transferred to your intended beneficiaries.
Because You made plans for your burial.
Because You made your wishes about a wake vs. a Celebration of Life clear.
Because You did it all - for them.
You get the point here: relieving them of the stress of decision-making is something they will remember, talk about, and maybe even copy in their own lives – all because they see what a great job you did!
That is what proper Estate Planning is all about… I can help you achieve that goal!
On the other hand, you could leave a Legacy of stress, bad decision-making and stories of what NOT to do if you want to preserve your life's work... But is that who you are? Of course not!
How do I begin my personalized Minnesota Estate Plan?
All it takes to get started on your own complete and personalized Estate Plan is using the Contact Me form to send me a brief message expressing your desire to take control of your Estate.
At the Maki Law Firm, I have a large selection of Estate Planning tools to ensure your assets are properly managed – whether during a temporary or permanent health issue or after your passing.
A well-designed Minnesota Estate Plan will account for any change in your health and ensure your assets are well-managed and your loved ones are cared for.
And with that large selection of tools comes great flexibility to ensure we meet all your Estate Planning goals while staying within a reasonable budget. Contact Me today!
You will find that my services are among the most affordable anywhere in Minnesota. And i can assist you regardless of where in MN you live.
Still have questions? Ready to get started?
Contact the Maki Law Firm today for your FREE Consultation!
PLEASE NOTE: I applaud your seeking out of Estate Planning information, but this article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified attorney.
You should not act on anything you read here without first consulting myself or another Minnesota Estate Planning attorney. Small details in your unique situation can result in a drastically different outcome.
Check out these related MN Estate Planning articles:
A Will is a good, and necessary, starting point for any Estate Plan. But there are many scenarios today that a Will ALONE simply cannot address.
Why should you use a Trust when a Will so much cheaper? A Will IS a basic, and necessary, part of any Estate Plan, but they are no match for the power of Trusts. Check out these 14 Top Benefits of Trusts to find out why!