At Johnson/Turner Legal, our experience in estate planning has allowed
us to identify common interests people often share during the estate planning
process. We use these interests to help you answer questions and identify
how to proceed with your estate plan.
We ask every client about the following topics:
- Trust. Who do you trust and why?
- Conflict. Do you anticipate conflict among your family/heirs?
- Legacy. What values and beliefs do you wish to pass on?
- Worries. What are your biggest worries when you are gone?
- Guardian. Who should take care of your kids if you are not able or around?
- Life vision. What is your vision for your life, and what are you doing
to achieve it?
How you answer these questions determines how we proceed with the estate
planning process moving forward. For example, if you worry that there
may be conflict among your family/heirs when you pass, we'll work with
you to create airtight trusts and wills and ensure that your assets and
property are appropriately divided among your family (or other beneficiaries).
If you have anxiety about your life goals or worries about the future,
our life coach will work with you to address those issues and reclaim
control of your life.
Estate planning is a complex, multi-faceted process. Every good estate
plan encompasses five essential elements.
What Can an Estate Plan Do for Me?
No family or person is the same, so no estate plans are the same. But through
our years of creating precise and thoughtful estate plans, we’ve
been able to identify some key features that apply to most people, and
we’ve shaped them into plans that address some of the common estate-planning
goals we’ve seen.
We’ll help you plan for the future of your estate, including some,
all of, or even more than what’s listed here.
- Identify a person to act on your behalf for financial and health care concerns
if you can’t.
- Avoid probate.
- Establish accounts to pay final expenses or debts.
- Protect your assets from end-of-life expenses.
- Define what you want your beneficiaries to receive, and protect those who
might need help managing those assets.
- Reduce or eliminate estate taxes.
- Plan for business succession or the future of a family cabin.
- Minimize conflict and maintain privacy.
- Address the needs of a blended family
When most people hear the phrase "estate planning," they immediately
think of wills. Every individual over the age of 18 should have a will
to help them decide how property and assets will be divided among friends,
family members, and loved ones should they pass on or become mentally
Without a will, your estate will be decided based on state law. That means
Minnesota state officials will decide:
- who raises your children,
- where your assets go, and
- who inherits your personal belongings.
A will allows you to take control of the process. With a will, you get
to make the following decisions:
- Designate guardians to raise and look after your children;
- Appoint a Personal Representative who will ensure your will gets followed
to the letter, and your assets are appropriately distributed;
- Ensure specific beneficiaries inherit certain assets or property;
- Omit certain family members from your will if you wish to do so;
- Include specifications for charitable gifts within your will;
Include stipulations to help avoid the
probate process (which can save your beneficiaries time and emotional turmoil);
- Minimize estate taxes.
To draft a will in Minnesota, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must be 18 years-old or older;
- The will must be in writing (a typed will is always preferable to a holographic,
or hand-written, will);
- You must sign the will, along with at least two other witnesses, such as
an attorney or conservator; and
- You must clarify that you intend for the document to operate as a will.
An experienced estate planning lawyer in Minnesota can help you draft a
comprehensive, secure will that accurately distributes your assets. Importantly,
a Minnesota estate planning attorney can also help you modify an existing
will if circumstances change, and you wish to update your will.
You should keep your will in a secure place. In Minnesota, many court administrators
will hold a will for little to no expense. Your attorney may also be willing
to safeguard your will for you. Be sure to let multiple people know who
has your will.
Trusts are often overlooked in the estate planning process, but they can
be a fantastic way to preserve and distribute assets. Living trusts allow
you to determine how assets are distributed and place those resources
in the care of a trustee, who will hold them until a specified event occurs.
For example, you can use a trust to set aside money for your child and
specify that once your child turns 25, they get access to the trust fund.
You can create a non-revocable trust, which immediately removes assets
from your ownership and places them under the care of the trustee, or
a revocable trust that you can still alter throughout your life. While
it might seem like a revocable trust is an obvious choice, irrevocable
trusts have their benefits. For example, if you need to file for bankruptcy,
assets in an irrevocable trust might be exempt from the bankruptcy process.
Some benefits of a trust include:
- Trusts can enable you to avoid the probate process entirely;
- You have more control over how assets are distributed to beneficiaries;
- You can avoid estate taxes; and
- A trust can go into effect if you are incapacitated, whereas a will might
only be effective once you die.
Many people think trusts and wills are an "either-or," but in
truth, they work best together as complementary elements in an estate
plan. A trust enables you to have control over assets during your life
that a will can't provide, but a will might be a more effective tool post-death.
Your estate planning attorney in Minnesota can help you draft a legally
binding trust when they help you develop and enact your will.
The Health Care Directive
The health care directive establishes what types of care you receive should
you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself.
In a health care directive, you appoint one or more Health Care Agents
and a Successor Agent to make medical decisions and carry out any last
wishes you have. Importantly, the health care directive waives HIPPA restrictions,
allowing medical professionals to provide your Health Care Agent with
information that would normally be restricted.
A health care directive helps ensure that you have the best possible quality
of life if you become incapacitated and that your last wishes are faithfully
observed and carried out.
The Power of Attorney
Power of Attorney grants another person the right to act on your behalf
on legal and/or financial matters. For example, Power of Attorney documents
allow you to specify who takes care of your bills if you become incapacitated,
or who makes financial decisions if you're unable to.
Like a health care directive, you can appoint one or more Agents to have
Power of Attorney. Power of Attorney goes into effect as soon as you lack
the capacity to make decisions, and expires upon death.
The Transfer on Death Deed (TODD)
A transfer on death deed is a legal document you execute that specifies
a beneficiary to inherit your property from you after death. A TODD can
allow you to circumvent the probate process entirely.
In probate, your beneficiaries must take your will to court to prove it
is valid. Probate is often an arduous process, particularly when bad actors
try and discredit the will or drag out the process. Using documents like
a trust and a TODD can help you avoid the probate process entirely, ensuring
things go smoothly if you're incapacitated or pass on.
A Note About Elder Law
At Johnson/Turner Legal, we're proud to offer comprehensive elder law services.
While some parts of estate planning also apply to elder law, certain processes—such
as helping an elderly person obtain Medicaid—are unique to elder
law. To learn more about elder law, please
visit our Elder Law page.
At Johnson/Turner Legal, our team of Minnesota estate planning lawyers
will do whatever we can to help you preserve your legacy. Our flat-fee
pricing model provides our clients with absolute transparency, so you
can feel confident moving forward with your estate planning case.
Schedule a consultation with our firm.
Contact us online or via phone at