Estate Planning 101: What Do You Really Need?

A Minnesota Estate Planning Lawyer Explains the Basics of an Estate Plan

Estate planning is much more than having a will. It involves planning for incapacity during life, the transfer of assets at death, and making sure all of the assets pass according to your plan.

 Lifetime Planning Documents

A comprehensive estate plan works to protect you, and your assets, during life as well as at death. At a minimum, lifetime planning should include: 1) a Minnesota Power of Attorney; and 2) a Health Care Direction. These documents will be further discussed below.

1.   Power of Attorney

I believe that this is the most powerful document in your estate plan. While the Power of Attorney is valid only during your lifetime, it is valid the moment you sign it. In this document you (“the principal”) name another person who is able to “step in your shoes” and act as you. That person is called the agent (“attorney-in-fact”) and they now have the power to make business, legal, and financial decisions on your behalf. The principal and agent have simultaneous power to act. That is very important to know. The powers are broad and sweeping. You are granting someone else the power to do (almost) anything with your financial matters.

Your recourse against an agent who does more than what was intended is minimal at best. There are some ways to protect against such risk, but there are two main ones I tell my clients; 1) don’t give them the Power of Attorney but put it someplace safe so they can access it if you’re incapacitated; and 2) don’t name them.  Think long and hard about who you are naming and if you have any hesitation, don’t do it.

2.   Health Care Directives, Health Care Powers of Attorney, and Living Wills

These documents also only have impact during a person’s life. The health care directive has two parts. In part one you again name an agent who will have the power to make health care decisions for you if and only if the you are unable to make or  communicate such decisions. Part two allows you to write or otherwise express your preferences regarding your medical care as a guide for people to follow.

Testamentary Documents

Planning for after-death transfer of assets is an essential part of an estate plan. Several options exist for planning for death, most notably a will and a revocable trust. Working with a qualified Minnesota Estate Planning attorney is crucial in determining the best way to transfer your assets based on your, and your family’s, unique situation. Proper planning can spare your loved ones the time, stress and money caused when there is no plan, or there’s an improper one, in place.

Minnesota Estate Planning Attorney

Contact Unique Estate Law today by calling (952) 955-7623 to set up an initial consultation to get your plan.