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Wills

Monday, January 26, 2015

Leaving a Timeshare to a Loved One

Many of us have been lucky enough to acquire timeshares for the purposes of vacationing on our time off.  Some of us would like to leave these assets to our loved ones.  If you have a time share, you might be able to leave it to your heirs in a number of different ways. 

One way of leaving your timeshare to a beneficiary after your death is to modify your will or revocable trust.  The modification should include a specific section in the document that describes the time share and makes a specific bequest to the designated heir or heirs. After your death, the executor or trustee will be the one that handles the documents needed to transfer title to your heir. If the time share is outside your state of residence and is an actual real estate interest, meaning that you have a deed giving you title to a certain number of weeks, a probate in the state where the time share is located, called ancillary probate, may be necessary. Whether ancillary probate is needed will depend upon the value of the time share and the state law.

Another way you could accomplish this goal is to execute what is called a "transfer on death" deed. However, not all states have legislation that permits this so it is imperative that you check state law or consult with an attorney in the state where the time share is located. A transfer on death deed is basically like a beneficiary designation for a piece of real estate. Your beneficiary would submit a survivorship affidavit after your death to prove that you have died. Once this document is recorded the beneficiary would become the title owner.

It is also important to investigate what documents the time share company requires in order to leave your interest to a third party. They may require that additional forms be completed so that they can bill the beneficiary for the annual maintenance fees or other charges once you have died.

If you want to do your best to ensure that your loved ones inherit your time share, you should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney today. 

 


Monday, January 12, 2015

A Discussion About Wills, Part 2: Is a copy of a will sufficient?

A Minneapolis Probate Lawyer Discusses the Issue of Using a Will Copy in a Probate 

Many people keep their important documents at home where they are easily accessible. It’s not at all uncommon to find people with a filing cabinet or even a shoe box containing passports, account statements, deeds, tax returns, birth certificates and social security cards. Wills are often added to these files once the estate planning process is completed. In choosing to store your important estate planning documents at home, however, you risk having the originals lost or destroyed in the case of fire, flooding or theft. So what happens if the original version of your will is lost or ruined?

When a person dies, Minnesota law determines what must happen in the state probate proceeding. In most cases, the "original" of the will must be submitted to the probate court in the county where the person resided. If the original of the will cannot be located and provided to the court, Minnesota's probate code does permit the submission of a photocopy of that signed will though it may cause a delay.

Should you lose the original copy of your will, the best practice would be for you to execute a new will which would make things easier for your family and loved ones upon your death. In that case there would be better assurances that your wishes were followed and carried out. Preparing a new will should not take much time for your attorney. If you work with Unique Estate Law, we can easily finalize a new original for you. In addition, if you have our Foundational Estate Plan, then you received a free account with Legal Vault and copies of your documents should all be online for your, or your loved ones, to access in case of emergency. If for some reason this is not done, you may wish to execute a document stating the original was destroyed in a flood or fire but that you did not intend to revoke it. 

Another option to consider to keep the originals of your estate planning documents safe, even in the face of disaster, is purchasing a fireproof/waterproof safe for your home or rent a safe deposit box with a local bank where you can still easily access your documents but keep them secure off-site. Many of my clients have gun safes and have decided to put their plan in the safe. Also, each county in Minnesota will, for a small fee, store your original will.

If you have any questions on storage of your documents, please contact an estate planning attorney at Unique Estate Law.


Monday, January 05, 2015

A Discussion About Wills, Part 1: You Really Do Need a Will
 

A Minneapolis Estate Planning Lawyer Discusses Why You Need a Will

Believe it or not, my busiest time of year is around the holidays and New Year's. I can only guess that it has to do with family getting together and realizing that they may need to take care of business matters for family members. So, I decided to start 2015 with a primer on wills.  This is the first in my series on planning for the unexpected using a will. 

“Do I really need a will?”

This is the most common questions clients ask but it’s really just a rhetorical question. You already have a will. But how is that possible you ask?  You’ve never met with a lawyer or put anything in writing?  It doesn’t matter because the state has generously provided one for you free of cost. So, the decision on whether to spend the time and expense in drafting a will comes down to two questions. The first question is:

Do you care who does or doesn’t get your stuff?

Whether it’s a Wii game system or a house, we all care about who gets our stuff. Perhaps you really want your best friend, NOT your brother, to get the Wii system. You must specify that in writing.  The second question is:

Do you trust the State?

Before you answer keep in mind that while Minnesota’s divides your stuff between your immediate family members, this does not include your partner, stepchild, best friend or unadopted children.  So, in the above example, the State will give your Wii system to your brother before your best friend.

I recognize that the above illustration is somewhat silly but the State’s decisions on property inheritance can be devastating to nontraditional families. My next post will further discuss what will happen to your property if you rely on the State’s will instead of drafting your own.

But you don’t need to read that far.  If you want control over who will get your stuff, get a will now!


Monday, November 24, 2014

What is a Successor Trustee

A Minneapolis Estate Planning Lawyer Defines a Successor Trustee and Explains Why You Should Have One

You did everything right. You sat down with a lawyer, paid her to draft your estate plan, created a living trust and named each other as trustees. But, the unthinkable happened and your spouse died before you did. You were so sure it would be you first. Your lawyer now explains that you are the successor trustee and that you must now administer your spouse's trust. What does she mean by a successor trustee? 


Read more . . .


Monday, November 10, 2014

How to Choose an Executor

A Minneapolis Probate Lawyer Discusses Selecting An Executor Post Mortem

The death of a loved one is a difficult experience no matter the circumstances.  It can be especially difficult when a person dies without a will.  If a person dies without a will and there are assets that need to be distributed, the estate will be subject to the process of administration instead of probate proceedings.


Read more . . .


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Simple Will Is Not Enough

Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate Lawyer Explains the Minimum Documents You Need to Protect Your Family

I sometimes hear comments like "I just need a simple will" or "Why can't I just get my will on the internet"?  I want to be clear that a basic last will and testament cannot accomplish every goal of estate planning; in fact, it often cannot even accomplish the most common goals.  This fact often surprises people who are going through the estate planning process for the first time. Or worse, the family left behind finds this out when they attempt to settle a loved ones estate.  In addition to a last will and testament, there are other important planning tools which are necessary to ensure your estate planning wishes are honored.


Read more . . .


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Your Wishes in Your Words

A Minneapolis Estate Planning Attorney Explains Why Extra Communication with Your Loved Ones Is Helpful 

During the estate planning process, your attorney will draft a number of legal documents such as a will, trust and power of attorney which will help you accomplish your goals. While these legal documents are required for effective planning, they may not sufficiently convey your thoughts and wishes to your loved ones in your own words. A letter of instruction is a great compliment to your “formal” estate plan, allowing you to outline your wishes with your own voice.

This letter of instruction is typically written by you, not your attorney. Some attorneys may, however, provide you with forms or other documents that can be helpful in composing your letter of instruction. Whether your call this a "letter of instruction" or something else, such a document is a non-binding document that will be helpful to your family or other loved ones.

There is no set format as to what to include in this document, though there are a number of common themes.

First, you may wish to explain, in your own words, the reasoning for your personal preferences for medical care especially near the end of life. For example, you might explain why you prefer to pass on at home, if that is possible. Although this could be included in a medical power of attorney, learning about these wishes in a personalized letter as opposed to a sterile legal document may give your loved ones greater peace of mind that they are doing the right thing when they are charged with making decisions on your behalf. You might also detail your preferences regarding a funeral, burial or cremation. These letters often include a list of friends to contact upon your death and may even have an outline of your own obituary.

You may also want to make note of the following in your letter to your loved ones:

  • an updated list of your financial accounts with account numbers;
  • a list of online accounts with passwords;
  • a list of important legal documents and where to find them;
  • a list of your life insurance and where the actual policies are located;
  • where you have any safe deposit boxes and the location of any keys;
  • where all car titles are located; the
  • names of your CPA, attorney, banker, insurance advisor and financial advisor;
  • your birth certificate, marriage license and military discharge papers;
  • your social security number and card;
  • any divorce papers; copies of real estate deeds and mortgages;
  • names, addresses, and phone numbers of all children, grandchildren, or other named beneficiaries.

In drafting your letter, you simply need to think about what information might be important to those that would be in charge of your affairs upon your death. This document should be consistent with your legal documents and updated from time to time.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Protect Your Family Cabin with a Trust

Protecting Your Vacation Home with a Cabin Trust

Many people own a family vacation home--a lakeside cabin, a beachfront condo--a place where parents, children and grandchildren can gather for vacations, holidays and a bit of relaxation. It is important that the treasured family vacation home be considered as part of a thorough estate plan. In many cases, the owner wants to ensure that the vacation home remains within the family after his or her death, and not be sold as part of an estate liquidation.

There are generally two ways to do this: Within a revocable living trust, a popular option is to create a separate sub-trust called a "Cabin Trust" that will come into existence upon the death of the original owner(s). The vacation home would then be transferred into this Trust, along with a specific amount of money that will cover the cost of upkeep for the vacation home for a certain period of time. The Trust should also designate who may use the vacation home (usually the children or grandchildren). Usually, when a child dies, his/her right to use the property would pass to his/her children.

The Cabin Trust should also name a Trustee, who would be responsible for the general management of the property and the funds retained for upkeep of the vacation home. The Trust can specify what will happen when the Cabin Trust money runs out, and the circumstances under which the vacation property can be sold. Often the Trust will allow the children the first option to buy the property.

Another method of preserving the family vacation home is the creation of a Limited Liability Partnership to hold the house. The parents can assign shares to their children, and provide for a mechanism to determine how to pay for the vacation home taxes and upkeep. An LLP provides protection from liability, in case someone is injured on the property.

It is always wise to consult with an estate planning attorney about how to best protect and preserve a vacation home for future generations.


Monday, December 02, 2013

14 Costly Misconceptions About Planning for Your Senior Years

A Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate Lawyer Discusses Estate Planning Issues Specific to Seniors

Misconception #1: Most seniors move into nursing homes as a result of minor physical ailments that make it hard for them to get around.  Wrong!  A large percentage of admissions to nursing homes is because of serious health, behavior, and safety issues caused by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Misconception #2: Nursing home costs in Minnesota average $1,500 to $2,500 per month per person.  Hardly.  Current nursing home charges for one resident typically run $6,000 per month, or $72,000 per year, which does not include prescription drugs -- and those costs continue to rise.

Misconception #3: Children can care for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease at home, without the need for nursing home care.  Not true!  Many patients with Alzheimer’s disease end up in nursing homes because children are simply unable to provide the level of care their parent needs.  In most cases, the children want to care for their parents.  But, as a practical matter, they simply can’t.  Moving a parent into a nursing home is an intensely personal issue and should not be labeled as a right or wrong decision. In many cases, it’s the only realistic option.  The rare exception is when the family has enough money to pay for skilled nursing care at home.

Misconception #4: Standard legal forms are all you need for a good estate plan.  Not true.  A competent estate plan begins with clearly defined goals, supported by well-drafted legal documents, and the repositioning of assets, as needed, to protect your estate from taxes, probate costs, and catastrophic nursing home costs. But you MUST PLAN EARLY.

Misconception #5: Your child will never move you into a nursing home.  Wrong.  Most children consider all options before moving a parent into a nursing home.  But, sadly, children usually find they have no other alternative.  As a result, parents who never expected to live in a nursing home soon discover that a nursing home is the only place with the staff and equipment to provide the care they need.

Misconception #6: As payment for nursing home care, the government will take your family home.  Not true, if you plan ahead.  Many people fear that the government will take their home in exchange for nursing home care, but you can avoid this with proper planning.  You’ll be glad to know there are some ways you can protect your home so it won’t be taken.

Misconception #7: You will never end up in a nursing home.  That’s hard to predict.  Your odds are roughly 50/50.  Of Americans reaching age 65 in any year, nearly half will spend some time in a nursing home.  And a surprising number will require care for longer than one year.  That means every year, tens of thousands of seniors will face costs of $48,000 or more ($60,000 in Minnesota), which does not include the cost of prescription drugs.

Misconception #8: If your spouse enters a nursing home, all of your joint savings will have to be spent on his or her care.  No.  With proper planning you can keep half of your combined “countable” assets up to approximately $103,000 (increasing each year).  In some circumstances, you may be able to protect nearly all of your life savings.  In fact, it is often possible to protect much more than the $103,000 maximum.  “Countable” assets are those assets such as cash, checking accounts, savings, CDs, stocks, and bonds that the government considers available to be spent on the cost of nursing home care.

Misconception #9: Legally, you can give away only $14,000 to each of your children each year.  Not true.  You can give away any amount, but you have to report to the IRS gifts in excess of $14,000 per recipient per year ($28,000 if both husband and wife make a gift).  However, there is no requirement that you pay any gift tax unless you have exhausted your lifetime exclusion amount, which is currently set at $2,000,000 for an individual. But, there is a "look back" period so you must work with a qualified attorney before gifting away any assets as you age.

Misconception #10: You can wait to do long-term planning until your spouse or you get sick.  Yes, to some degree.  However, you and your spouse will be much better off if you have taken important planning steps in advance, before a crisis occurs.  What stops most people from being able to effectively plan when they are in the middle of a crisis is that the ill person is unable to make decisions and sign the necessary legal documents.

Misconception #11: All General Durable Powers of Attorney are created equal.  Completely false!  A General Durable Power of Attorney is a highly customized legal document -- and NOT a form!  Most Durable Powers of Attorney don’t contain even the most basic gifting authority.  Without a gifting power, your agent is usually limited to spending your money on your bills and selling your assets to generate cash to pay your bills.  Some Durable Powers of Attorney contain a gifting provision, but the Minnesota Statutory Power of Attorney it is limited to $10,000 per year.  This is particularly concerning for unmarried couples as the IRS considers ANY exchange of money/assets between them to be a gift.  The annual limit of $10,000 is too small for effective asset protection planning, and relates to a completely different type of federal estate and gift tax issue.  Unique Estate Law has created an enhanced power of attorney to get around that limit.

Misconception #12: Since you are married, your spouse will be able to manage your property and make financial decisions without a general durable power of attorney.  Not true.  If you become incapacitated and your spouse needs to sell or mortgage the family home -- or gain access to financial ac-counts that are in your name only -- your spouse will need a general durable power of attorney.  Without one, your spouse will have to go to Court and get the judge’s permission to act on your behalf by way of a conservatorship proceeding.

Misconception #13: You can hide your assets while you become eligible for Medicaid (Known as Medical Assistance in Minnesota).  False!  Intentional misrepresentation in a Medicaid application is a crime and can be costly.  The IRS shares any information concerning your income or assets with the local Medicaid eligibility office.  You -- or who-ever applied for Medicaid -- may have to repay Medicaid to avoid prosecution.

Misconception #14: Medicaid rules that applied to your neighbor when he went into a nursing home will also apply to you.  Maybe not.  Medicaid rules change.  Don’t assume the law that applied to your neighbor will also apply to you.  In addition, there may have been facts about your neighbor’s situation that you just don’t know.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Updating Your Estate Plan, Part II: Signs It's Time to Update Your Estate Plan

A Minnesota Estate Planning and Probate Attorney Lists 20 Red Flags That Signal When Your Will or Living Trust is Out of Date

I offer clients the opportunity to sit down with me and review their estate plans at least once each year.  However, this doesn’t mean you should wait until your next review if your circumstances change.  This Estate Planning Checklist identifies events that could make a significant impact on your estate.  If any of these events occurs, please call me.  For your protection, we may need to amend or revise one or more of your estate planning documents.

Changes Involving You or Your Spouse/Partner

1.  You get married.
2.  You and your spouse divorce or partner break up.
3.  Your spouse/partner dies or becomes incapacitated.
4.  Your health changes.

Changes Involving Your Children, Grandchildren or Other Beneficiaries

5.  You have a child.
6.  You adopt a child.
7.  Your child marries.
8.  Your child divorces.
9.  Your child becomes ill.
10.  One of your beneficiaries experiences an economic change, good or bad.
11.  One of your beneficiaries proves to be financially irresponsible.
12.  One of your beneficiaries has a change in attitude toward you.

Changes in Your Economic Condition

13.  The value of your assets increases or decreases.
14.  Your insurability for life insurance changes.
15.  Your employment changes.
16.  Your business interests change, such as becoming involved in a new partnership or corporation.
17.  You retire from your business or profession.
18.  You acquire property in a different state.
19.  You move to a different state.

Changes to a Person Named in Your Estate Plan

20.  Something happens to a person named in your estate plan, such as the death or incapacity of your personal representative, executor, trustee, guardian or conservator.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Updating Your Estate Plan, Part I: Why Your Plan May Need Maintenance.

Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate Lawyer Explains Why Your Estate Plan Needs Maintenance

When you buy a new car, everything works perfectly.  (At least, you hope it does.)  But then in 3,000 miles, it’s time for an oil change.  Also, you must keep your eye on the level of coolant in the radiator, your transmission fluid, and your power steering fluid.  You must make sure your alternator works to keep the battery charged.

What happens if you don’t maintain your car?  Your engine could burn up.  Your transmission could fail.  Your car could overheat.  Your battery could go dead.  All of which mean you’re stuck on the side of the road trying to hitchhike to the nearest town.

Your estate plan is like your car.  When you set it up, everything is current and accurate.  But you need to keep your eye on your assets, insurance, Powers of Attorney, gifting program, distribution plan, successor trustees, beneficiaries, and so much more.  That’s why it’s important that you meet with your estate planning attorney every year.

You wouldn’t think of going on a long trip without making sure that your car was in tip-top shape.  Yet every day, people embark on the long trip we call life.  And the problem with our “life trip” is that we’re never sure when that trip might end.  It’s a good idea to review your estate plan with your lawyer every year or two to see if changes in your family’s circumstances need to be reflected in your estate plan.

For example: You should review your estate plan with your estate planning attorney any time (1) you get married, (2) you go through a break up or divorce, (3) your partner/spouse dies or becomes incapacitated, (4) your health changes, (5) you have or adopt a child, (6) your children marry or divorce, (7) a potential problem arises with a beneficiary, (8) the value of your assets changes, (9) your employment changes, (10) your business interests change, (11) you retire, (12) you acquire property in another state, (13) you move to a different state, or (14) something happens to a person named in your estate plan that could affect your relationship or the duties they are to perform on your behalf.

But wait.  Is your estate plan really like your car?  It’s more accurate to say it’s like a fire engine -- ready to handle any emergency at a moment’s notice.  When your spouse has a heart attack, you want the paramedics -- right now!  You don’t want to call 9-1-1 and have the dispatcher explain to you that the fire truck has a dead battery.  Or a flat tire.  

It would be ridiculous to buy a new fire engine, back it into the fire station where it waits for the next emergency, and then not have a mechanic check under the hood for a year.  Do you know how many things can go wrong with a fire truck’s engine if it goes without service for a year?

Yet that’s exactly what people do with their estate plans.  They invest hard-earned money to set up their plans.  Then they put their plans in a drawer or safe deposit box where they gather dust for 2 years, 5 years, even 10 years -- often without updating the plan even once!

And then, when these people have an emergency, do you know what happens?  They dig out their paper-work only to learn that their plan no longer works.  You see, it was custom designed to fit their specific needs 5 years ago.  But now their needs, and often the law, have changed -- and no one updated the plan.  What a tragedy!

Your estate plan must be fully operational, ready to handle any emergency at a moment’s notice.  If your spouse has a heart attack and cannot make medical decisions, you don’t want the nurse at the hospital to explain that the legislature changed the law and now your Powers of Attorney are no longer valid.  Or, if your spouse dies, you don’t want the judge to tell you that your estate must go through probate because your Revocable Living Trust has not been properly maintained and updated.

You need your estate plan to be ready for any emergency -- 24 hours a day -- because you never know when you might need it.

An out-of-date estate plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.  But a current estate plan that works precisely the way it should -- protecting your family and safeguarding your assets -- is the greatest gift of love you can give to your family, your spouse, and yourself.  Your custom designed estate plan, created specifically for you -- combined with yearly maintenance meetings to keep your estate plan in tip-top shape -- are the best investment you’ll ever make.  I guarantee it.


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From within Hennepin County Unique Estate Law represents estate planning and elder law clients throughout Minnesota, including Minneapolis, Edina, Bloomington, St. Louis Park, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Wayzata, Maple Grove, St. Paul, and Brooklyn Park. The Minnesota law firm of Unique Estate Law focuses on all aspects of estate planning, including specialized wills, trusts, powers of attorney and medical directives for married couples, young families, blended families, single parents, gay families and those going through a divorce. Unique Estate Law also handles probate administration, asset protection, Medical Assistance planning, elder law, business succession planning, adoptions and cabin planning.



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3800 American Blvd., Suite 1500, Bloomington, MN 55431
| Phone: 952-955-7623
333 Washington Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401
| Phone: 952-955-7623
5775 Wayzata Blvd., St. Louis Park, MN 55416
| Phone: 952-955-7623

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