Gomez Law PLLC.

How Important Is Having a Comprehensive Estate Plan?

  • By: Kathleen Gomez
  • Published: March 29, 2021

Estate planning is critical for everyone, not just those with significant assets. If you would like a say in how your property is administered both during your life and after your death, if you would like peace of mind that your family will be taken care of in every eventuality, you need a well-organized estate plan in place. Because every family is unique, an experienced estate planning attorney can analyze your situation and develop customized solutions to meet your objectives for the future.

Attorney Kathleen Gomez has extensive experience helping clients here in New Hope, Minnesota, create well-organized estate plans that bring peace of mind to their families.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Minnesota?

Though the law does not require you to have one, a will is an important document that clarifies to the court and to all other interested parties what your wishes are in regard to the transfer of your property at your death. A will can also identify guardians for your children, name a personal representative to handle any of your unfinished business, and specify that certain items go to a friend or to charity.

If you were to die without a will, Minnesota’s intestate succession laws control how your assets will be divided. Your probate estate (those assets that can be passed through a will) would go to your spouse and/or your children or, if you’re unmarried with no children, your parents, siblings, or closest living relative. In some circumstances, your assets could end up going to the government, though this is rare; the state makes an effort to find anyone remotely related to you. If you do not wish for your assets to be distributed in that way, a will and a well-organized estate plan are the best way to ensure your wishes are respected.

There are a few instances where a will might not be needed. Those whose debts outweigh their assets might not need a will since no assets will be distributed to family members. Also, trusts can take the place of a will in some cases, as long as you’ve made provisions so that all of your assets will pass without a will through establishing trusts, naming beneficiaries on policies, and setting up joint property interests. If certain assets are not put into the trust, they will still have to be probated to determine how they’ll be distributed.

Overall, the scenario that creates maximum protection for your loved ones, shelters your estate from the costs of probate, and ensures your wishes will be respected would be to consult an attorney about creating a comprehensive estate plan.

In Addition to a Will, What Other Estate Planning Documents Do You Need?

Whatever your needs and goals for the future are, there’s an estate planning tool that can help you. Overall, a comprehensive estate plan should include directives that cover all medical and financial eventualities, including situations where you have become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for yourself. Most people also choose to protect certain assets through the numerous types of trusts available.

Important documents include:

  • A Health Care Directive – If there’s ever a healthcare situation where you are unable to speak for yourself, your health care directive designates a trusted person, your agent, to make medical decisions on your behalf. You can also specify your goals and preferences regarding your treatment and end-of-life procedures.
  • A Power of Attorney – If you are no longer able to make financial decisions for yourself, this specifies who will be in charge of your financial and legal needs, which can include paying your bills and managing your assets. You can determine how much power the person acting on your behalf, your agent, can have over your affairs. If you were to become incapacitated without a durable power of attorney in place, the court could initiate conservatorship proceedings.
  • A Living Trust – Through a trust, you can designate what portions of your estate go toward certain things while you’re still alive, which can allow you to maintain control over your estate during your lifetime. Upon your death (or incapacitation), your selected trustee would take over and ensure your assets are distributed to your beneficiaries. A revocable living trust, which is very popular, allows you to make changes to the trust and helps your estate avoid probate upon your death. Unlike with probate, your asset distribution will not be a matter of public record.
  • Specific-Use Trusts – Depending on your unique goals, your attorney can help you determine which trust will best suit your estate. You could set up a charitable trust to make future donations and benefit from tax savings. A bypass trust would allow you to leave assets that could provide your surviving spouse with income and avoid being taxed once your spouse passes on. A spendthrift trust helps beneficiaries who might be too young or irresponsible with money to handle their asset distribution and protects those assets from the beneficiary’s creditors. And finally, a life insurance trust protects the proceeds from your life insurance policy upon your death.

Due to the legal complexity of many of these documents, it’s best to consult with an attorney first to help you evaluate your needs and ensure that your plan will actually achieve your objectives in the future.

If Your Loved One Has Just Died, Do You Need a Lawyer to Help With Probate?

Probate is inevitable if your loved one does not have a comprehensive estate plan in place or left certain assets out of their trust. Though the state of Minnesota does not require a personal representative to hire a lawyer, having a dedicated will and probate lawyer on your side is the best way to help the complex legal process run smoothly and efficiently.

Life Changes. Be Prepared With the Help of Gomez Law PLLC

At Gomez Law PLLC, we’re dedicated to helping our clients with all of their estate planning needs, including the creation of wills, guardianships, trusts, directives, and more. Attorney Kathleen Gomez can bring you and your family peace of mind when it comes to thinking about all the uncertainties the future could hold. Based on your personal needs and goals, she will customize an estate plan to avoid probate, care for your loved ones, and give you a voice when it’s needed most.

We’re proud to offer our legal services to families here in New Hope, Minnesota.

For more information on Estate Planning in MN, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (763) 284-5552 today.

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