At Johnson/Turner Legal, our experience in Minnesota 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, then we'll work with you to create airtight wills and trusts
in order to 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, then our life coach will
work with you to address those issues and reclaim control of your life.
Will vs. Estate Plan – What's the Difference?
A will is a document outlining your wishes. An estate plan is a strategic
and thoughtful process that typically incorporates a will plus a power
of attorney (appointing an agent to sign documents on your behalf if you’re
incapacitated or incompetent), and a health care directive. In some cases,
it may also include a trust.
Plus—and this is critical—a proper estate plan ensures that
your assets are appropriately titled and given clear direction on beneficiaries.
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 have 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.
Our Minnesota estate planning lawyers will help you plan for the future
of your estate, including some, all of, or even more than what’s
- Identify a person to act on your behalf for financial and health care concerns
if you can’t.
- 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
Estate Planning Checklist
Estate planning is a complex, multi-faceted process. Every good estate
plan encompasses five essential elements:
- The Will
- The Trust
- The Health Care Directive
- The Power of Attorney
- The Transfer on Death Deed
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); and
- 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 near you 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 estate planning 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.
Non-revocable trusts are another option. These immediately remove assets from your ownership
and place them under the care of the trustee.
Revocable trusts are ones 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.
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.
Estate Planning Attorneys Near You
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.
With offices in
Woodbury, we have estate planning lawyers near you!
Schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney in Minnesota.
Contact us online or via phone at