Wills Attorney in Blaine, Minnesota
Various polls and surveys indicate that only between 30 and 40 percent of all Americans have executed a will to designate who gets their assets when they’re gone. The most common reasons cited by those without wills are “I don’t know how” and “I’m not rich enough.”
“Don’t know how” can be cured by a consultation with an estate planning attorney, but the “not rich enough” reason is a bit misguided. Every working adult accumulates assets throughout their career, and if they fail to execute a will, the state will decide how those assets will be distributed and to whom, using the state’s laws of inheritance.
Assets go beyond just money and real property – though those are certainly valuable commodities – but also include things like family heirlooms, pictures and videos of children growing up, collections of coins or art, and other personal possessions that may mean more to your heirs than to outsiders.
Estate planning is the term used in describing the process of creating a will. You need to survey every asset you have, consider the needs and desires of your loved ones, and then express your wishes for who should get what when you’re gone.
Unfortunately, the phrase “estate planning” can also often be interpreted in a misinformed way. When people hear the word “estate,” they often think of gated communities and people being chauffeured about. However, there are many benefits of having a will.
Again, don’t let the word distort your conception of planning to take care of your loved ones. Your estate is basically everything you’ve accumulated in your life, whether it’s money, real property, or the personal items mentioned above. An experienced estate planning attorney can assist you with drafting a will to protect and safeguard your loved ones.
If you’re just starting on the estate planning process in or around Blaine, Minnesota, or you have a will already and need to review and update it, contact me at The Law Office of Robert J. Everhart, PLC.
Every individual and every family situation is unique. I will meet with you, discuss your goals and needs and those of your family members, and help you create or revise a will to give you and your loved ones peace of mind going forward. I also proudly serve clients throughout the counties of Hennepin, Ramsey, and Sherburne.
Overview of Wills
We all know from TV dramas that wills name who gets what when someone passes on. These dramas typically show someone reading a last will and testament – the official name – and then gasps arise when people feel cheated or left out.
Of course, these scenes do not actually represent real life, since wills must go through probate court to be administered. They are not normally read to an assembled group of heirs and would-be beneficiaries by some stoic-looking individual.
That being aside, a will generally goes beyond just designating who gets what. Another important function is to name a guardian for minor children. If a guardian is not named in the will, the court will appoint one. Likewise, the will generally names a personal representative to administer the will during probate proceedings. If you do not name one, again the court will appoint one.
A will can also be used to cancel any debts owed to you. Though you cannot leave property to a pet, you can designate someone to care for your furry friend or make other arrangements to care for the animal.
Wills must be signed by you and witnessed by two others to be valid. Notarization is not necessary. You also must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind when you create your will.
According to the Minnesota Attorney General’s website, you can further protect your will against court challenges by making your will self-proved. This means that you and your two witnesses “acknowledge in affidavits” that you signed and executed the will voluntarily.
Why a Will Is Important
As already alluded to, a will gives you control of the distribution of your assets. You can even exclude family members in a will, though in some cases an excluded spouse or child might be able to assert a claim for a percentage of assets.
If you die intestate, that is, without a will, then the probate court in the county where you lived and died will take over the process and choose who gets what according to the state’s laws of inheritance.
Difference Between a Will and a Trust
A last will and testament must go through probate court proceedings, in which your named personal representative becomes the executor of your estate. The process can take months or longer, and if there are challenges, legal costs can rise quickly.
In contrast, a living trust – which just like a will designates who gets what – avoids probate court for the most part. The successor trustee you name in the legal instrument presides over the distribution of your assets. (You are the trustee while alive and not incapacitated.)
Even with a trust, however, you still should have a will. You cannot name a guardian for your children in a trust, so a will is needed for that. In addition, you can create a pour-over will for assets that you accumulated after you created your trust – or forgot to include – so that the trustee will have control over those as well and distribute them equitably.
Serving Blaine, Minnesota
Every person’s and every family’s situation and needs are different, so wills must be drafted to take into account everyone and every eventuality. For this, you really need the help of an attorney experienced in drafting ironclad wills that can withstand any challenges in court. If you’re in or around Blaine, Minnesota, contact me at The Law Office of Robert J. Everhart, PLC. I will meet with you personally, hear your hopes and dreams for your loved ones, and help you create a will or other estate planning instruments that will give you and your loved ones peace of mind going forward.