Tag Archive for personal property

Is an Estate Plan Necessary?

estate-planThe sentiment – “I don’t care what happens after I die because, after all, I’ll be gone.” – typically doesn’t work well in reality.

Creating a well-thought-out estate plan is really your last gift to your family. Without such a plan, your relatives may be cursing you for the unnecessary mess that you left behind rather than having sufficient time to grieve your death and navigate ways to cope without you. » Read more..

“Mine, and That’s Mine, Too”

When the second parent dies, the fights over personal possessions can derail any sense of family harmony.

In fact, the kids may appear to regress to fights and tactics more common among 3-year-olds.  It may sound as though the kids are each saying: “Mine, and that’s mine, too”.

Why? Certain household goods and personal items can be emotionally priceless to the kids even when the financial value of the item is next to nothing. » Read more..

12 Reasons Why You Need a Will

There are at least 12 reasons why Minnesotans need a Will. 

Reason #1: Keep control. The Minnesota Legislature has established a plan in state law for what happens to your assets if you do not have a Will. That plan may be contrary to your wishes, and may not be the best for your family. You are in control if you create a Will. » Read more..

Prioritize What You Want Future Generations to Keep With a “Family Keepers List”

Your children may not care about the stuff you leave behind – at least not yet – so help them prioritize what they should keep by preparing a “Family Keepers List” for them.

Minnesota’s Star Tribune newspaper published an article April 20, 2013 reporting that family possessions are being shed due to the next generation’s disinterest and/or lack of space. » Read more..

Who Inherits the Mortgage & the Credit Card Debt?

Family members typically aren’t responsible for debt held solely in the name of a deceased relative, but creditors still have certain rights to payment. Whether the creditors get paid ultimately depends on the value of the assets owned by the deceased. » Read more..

Ways to Divide Your Personal Stuff While Keeping the Family Peace

Who Gets Aunt Lilly’s Handmade Kitchen Cupboard? Grandpa’s Favorite Fishing Pole? When we’re headed to heaven, we don’t want hellish feuds to break out among the family members over “the stuff” that we leave behind. So what are the pros and cons for various methods of dividing the family keepsakes so as to achieve family peace on earth? » Read more..

Is Probate Bad? Should Probate be Avoided?

In Minnesota, an estate will need to go through probate if: 1) the deceased owned real estate – of any value — in his or her name alone or 2) the deceased owned personal property in his or her name alone in excess of $50,000 in value at the time of death.

Critics of probate say that it is expensive, takes too much time, and is public. Certainly probate records are public records and are available to anyone who wishes to see them.

However, the most oft-cited complaint about probate is that it is costly. The “costly” reputation comes from the fact that – in some states – attorneys are paid a percentage of the decedent’s assets. Of course, whether the percentage yields a large number depends on the size of the estate. In Minnesota, attorneys are paid for the time actually spent on the probate matter.

Probate does take some time, however. Informal probate takes six months or longer in Minnesota, but is cheaper than formal probate because there are no probate court hearings and limited court involvement. Informal probate is allowed in Minnesota if, for example, the Will language is clear, there are no disgruntled heirs and there are no title problems with the real estate. If there’s any sort of issue, the probate will be formal.

There are various ways to avoid probate, but having a Will does not avoid probate. Indeed, a purpose of probate is to determine that the Will presented to it is valid.

Moreover, real estate can trigger a probate action in each state where the deceased owned real estate solely in his or her name. Persons wishing to avoid probate in their home state or in other states where they own real property may do so by owning the property jointly with another person (so-called “joint tenancy with a right of survivorship”) or by placing the real estate in a revocable living trust.

To avoid probate triggered by the $50,000 threshold in Minnesota for personal assets, Minnesotans should not be the sole owner of the bulk of their assets. Assets escape probate in Minnesota if they are held in a revocable living trust, a “payable on death” account, a “transfer on death” account, as a “transfer on death deed”, or in joint tenancy with a spouse, child or other person. Retirement accounts and life insurance policies that name beneficiaries (that is, beneficiaries other than the decedent’s “estate”) are also assets that do not trigger probate.

Of course, beneficiaries care about the time involved with probate because they want to know: “When will I get my money?”  The more complicated the estate, the longer it takes. Particularly if there are some conflicts, it is best if the personal representative doesn’t distribute assets until all expenses have been paid and the court has approved “the final account”. A partial distribution may be made earlier if it is clear that the estate has sufficient assets to cover all the bills. Under Minnesota law, creditors are given a period – usually four months – to file claims.

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Disclaimer: This Blog is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. If you have questions, please seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in the state where you live. Wittenburg Law does not expressly or implicitly warrant the accuracy or reliability of any of the Blog’s contents. An attorney-client relationship is not formed by reading this Blog. If you are interested in Wittenburg Law’s representation of you, you must contact Wittenburg Law for a determination of whether your matter is one for which Wittenburg Law is willing and able to accept representation of you.


Who Gets Aunt Lilly’s Handmade Kitchen Cupboard?

Certain household goods and personal items can be emotionally priceless to your descendants even when the financial value of such personal property is next to nothing. One way to avoid conflict over those items after your death is to establish a distribution plan.

Do you remember those countless fishing trips with Grandpa fishing for bullheads? Who gets his fishing poles when Grandpa’s gone? Or who gets the hand-made quilt that graced Mom’s living room sofa all the years the grandchildren were growing up? Who gets Great Aunt Lilly’s handmade kitchen cupboard? Who gets the ancestral photo albums dating back to the early 1800s? » Read more..