You may have many questions about what estate planning is and how to get started. Below are some frequently asked questions and answers. Each client’s situation is unique, so contact us today for a free, half-hour, no obligation consultation so that we can discuss your individual needs.
What is a Will?
A will is a written document that provides instructions for disposing of your property after you pass away and appointing a guardian for any minor children you have. A will can only be enforced through the probate court. The probate process is entirely public, can take over a year to complete, requires paying court costs and attorney’s fees, and can therefore be quite frustrating and emotionally draining for your heirs. A will can be contested by practically anyone, and if it is, the probate process will be lengthened and the costs increased, sometimes exponentially.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person’s property under a valid will. Probate is a public process and practically anyone can file a will contest. The probate process can be long, expensive, frustrating and emotionally draining for your family.
What is a Revocable Living Trust?
A Revocable Living Trust is a trust you create while you are living into which you transfer ownership of your assets. You can name yourself (and your spouse, if you are married) as the trustees of the trust, thus guaranteeing that you retain complete control. When you pass away, the person(s) you name as your successor trustee(s) gain control of your assets and distribute them according to your instructions (no need for probate). Unlike a will, which only takes effect upon death, a Revocable Living Trust can help you preserve, protect and increase your estate while you are alive, and offers protection should you be become mentally disabled. A Revocable Living Trust can be changed or revoked at any time, thus giving you maximum flexibility for changing life situations.
How Do I Avoid Probate for my Family?
One of the ways to avoid probate is to create a Revocable Living Trust (RLT) while you are alive. After creating a RLT, you transfer ownership all your assets into your trust, which you control and can revise. Therefore, when you pass away, you do not own anything in your own name and thus there is nothing for the probate court to administer. Although you technically do not own any assets while you are alive, you will still have complete control of the assets because either you or a trusted person are the trustee of your trust. Upon your passing, the beneficiaries you have named acquire ownership of the assets. Unlike a will, a trust does not go through probate. Therefore, you have the peace of mind that your assets will be distributed to the persons you name privately and efficiently.
What is a Medical Power of Attorney and a Living Will?
A Medical Power of Attorney is a document you sign giving someone else the power to make medical decisions for you when you cannot make those decisions for yourself. A Living Will is a document you sign which provides instructions regarding what you want for your health care and end-of-life decisions. In Minnesota, the Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will are combined into one document called a “Health Care Directive.” In order to ensure that your wishes are followed, your Health Care Directive should be drafted by a licensed, competent Minnesota attorney, properly executed, and kept in a safe place where your family can find it in case of emergency.