Estate Planning Blog

Should You Have a Will or a Trust?

Wooden dice with question marks on it over white background

Whether a Will or a Revocable Living Trust is best for you depends on your goals and situation.

An estate planning lawyer can help you review the pros and cons of each based on your needs and desires.

A Revocable Living Trust is more flexible than a Will, and may help married persons avoid Minnesota’s estate tax. However, a Revocable Living Trust is more expensive to set up, and requires you to proactively assign various assets to your Trust for your Trust to work properly. » Read more..

Second Marriage? No Will?

Minnesotans in a 2nd marriage that fail to sign a Will before death may fall victim to unintended consequences.

Minnesota law applies when there is no Will, and those laws may not be what the parties to the 2nd marriage expected.

For example, spouses often expect to inherit all of their deceased spouse’s assets even when spouses are in a 2nd marriage. That expectation is wrong if the deceased has children from a 1st marriage and the deceased did not create a Will giving everything to the surviving spouse. When there is no Will, but there are children from the deceased’s 1st marriage, Minnesota law states that the surviving spouse is to receive “the first $225,000” plus ½ of the rest. The other assets go to the deceased’s descendants. » Read more..

A Will is Not Enough

Surprise! Beneficiary designations on assets such as life insurance and retirement accounts trump anything that you state in your Will or Trust.

Thus, your estate plan is not finished just because you’ve signed a Will or Trust. You also must review your beneficiary designations to ensure that they are in sync with your overall estate plan wishes.

Several types of assets allow beneficiary designations, such as life insurance, retirement plans, health savings accounts, annuities, 529 accounts, Payable on Death (P.O.D.) accounts and Transfer on Death (T.O.D.) accounts. » Read more..

Must I Have a Will?

Skipping the writing of a Will may harmfully disrupt family dynamics, may result in distributions that you didn’t want or intend, and may increase the costs of settling your estate.

A Will, properly executed under Minnesota law, is your legal instruction to your survivors as to how you want your estate divvied up after you die.

If you don’t have a Will, Minnesota law has a plan for you, which you may not like. » Read more..

Must I Give My Kids an Inheritance?

Will your kids think less of you if they don’t inherit anything from you at your death? Will you feel guilty if you don’t – or can’t — provide them with an inheritance?

Inheritance of any size is a windfall for the children who receive it given that they most likely didn’t do anything to earn it.

Some wealthy parents don’t want their children to inherit more than a fraction of their estate out of concern that their children may not use it wisely or may develop bad habits.

Other parents may be concerned that health care costs, and the living expenses associated with living longer than past generations, may make it unlikely that the parents will have any money left to give to their children. » Read more..

Pros & Cons of Minnesota’s Transfer-on-Death Deed

Minnesota’s Transfer-on-Death Deed (TODD) has been a popular estate planning tool since 2008, when a law enabling the technique became effective.

The homeowner uses a TODD to designate who should inherit a specific parcel of real estate after the homeowner’s death. The TODD must be recorded with the county recorder (or registrar of titles, as the case may be) in the Minnesota county where the property is located prior to the death of the homeowner. » Read more..

Estate Planning for Blended Families

Second marriages – particularly when each spouse has kids from a prior marriage – are fraught with complications that heighten the need for careful estate planning.

When there’s been only one marriage, and when all of the children are the children of both parents, a typical scenario in Minnesota is as follows: The parent who dies first transfers all of his or her assets to the surviving parent. When the surviving parent also dies, their children share any assets that remain.

However, parents in 2nd marriages have worries regarding the transfer of their wealth that differ from 1st marriage situations. » Read more..

Perspective on GOP Plan to Eliminate Estate Tax

One of the more controversial proposals in the 2017 GOP tax cut plan being debated currently includes the potential elimination of the federal estate tax. Under current federal estate tax law, the federal estate tax only applies to amounts above an “excluded” dollar amount.

For persons dying in 2017, only assets above $5,490,000 are subject to the federal estate tax. Up to nearly $11 million may be excluded for a couple.

For some historical perspective, note that for several years in the 1990s, the exclusion was $600,000. In 2001, the federal exclusion was $675,000. The federal estate tax exclusion jumped to $1 million in 2002; $2 million in 2006, and $3.5 million in 2009. Since 2010 or so, it has been $5 million or a bit more. » Read more..

Should Family Pay the Deceased’s Bills?

Careful! It may be best to pause before paying bills of the deceased.

It’s important to first know what the assets of the estate are, and what claims are being made against those assets. Is the estate solvent? If not, Minnesota law sets out a priority list for paying creditors. The creditors at the bottom of the priority list may not receive anything. » Read more..

Will My Step-Children Inherit?

If you want your step-children to inherit, you need to specify that wish in your Minnesota Will or Revocable Living Trust.

If you don’t do so, then only your blood relatives or adopted children will inherit.

Without a Will (and assuming that you have no surviving spouse), your children inherit in equal shares under Minnesota law. No provision is provided for step-children. » Read more..