Estate Planning Blog

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..

When Is Probate Preferred?

Typically, people want to avoid probate, but there are times when probate is the better path.

(Probate is a legal process in which a court formally appoints a personal representative to administer the deceased’s estate. Probate may occur whether or not the deceased had a Will. When the deceased’s Will names someone to be the personal representative, the selection is considered a “nomination” – not an appointment. It is the court that “appoints” and provides the official documentation that enables the nominated personal representative to act.)

People often prefer to avoid probate because the probate process is public, takes time, costs money, and involves some hassle.

But sometimes probate may be the preferred — or required — path because the court can resolve issues, thereby reducing pressure on the personal representative. Some examples are: » Read more..

Can I Disinherit My Spouse?

You can’t disinherit your Minnesota spouse unless he or she signed away those rights in a validly executed pre-nup or post-nup agreement.

Otherwise, even if you specifically omit your spouse in your Will, your surviving spouse has up to 9 months after your death to “elect against the Will” and seek the surviving spouse’s so-called “elective share”.

Calculating the elective share is a complicated process, but generally and loosely speaking, the Court looks at the combined assets of the deceased and surviving spouse. The Court then applies a certain percentage against that number for the award to the surviving spouse. The size of the percentage varies based on the number of years of marriage. The percentages start at 3% for one year of marriage. The maximum percentage is 50% for 15 or more years of marriage. » Read more..

Benefits of Estate Planning

Let’s admit it: We care about how we are remembered after death, and also about what happens to our lifetime accumulation of financial and other assets.

Thus, it’s foolhardy to think that we can keep putting off estate planning on the premise that death is still a long ways away, or that everything will somehow work out (miraculously) according to our wishes if we do nothing. » Read more..

Talk to Your Intended Heirs

Have you and your children had “the talk” about your estate?

You may think that you have the best-crafted estate plan that you can have. However, if your children don’t learn about it until your death, and are surprised by it, you may unintentionally trigger resentment and fighting that my last throughout their lifetimes. » Read more..

Joint Account with Child May Backfire

Studio portrait of a senior couple jokingly choking each other while looking at the camera.

Designating one of your children as the joint holder of your bank account may create problems.

It is typically better to use a Minnesota Durable Power of Attorney document to enable the child to write checks and to take other actions on your behalf during your senior years instead of creating the jointly held account.

Why? A jointly held account may place your carefully crafted estate plan in jeopardy. » Read more..

Estate Planning is About Life as much as Death

legacy - isolated word in vintage letterpress wood type

Thoughtful estate planning may help you build the size of your estate, rather than just focusing on what happens to your money and other possessions after you die.

A proper estate plan typically includes typical documents such as a Will and possibly a Trust, but there’s more. » Read more..