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Minnesota Probate and Estate Planning Blog

Estate planning for blended families

The U.S. divorce rate has gone down in recent years, but it is still over 40%. This means that many of us have parents on a second (or third) marriage, some of which lasted longer than the first one with children. So as couples get their affairs in order, it is likely that they will need to consider children, stepchildren, grandchildren as well as their spouse.

We all hope that a blended marriage is a blissful one where everyone gets along. This may be the current tone, but the death of a parent has a way of putting unexpected stress upon families that can lead to discord among beneficiaries.



Aretha Franklin, the legendary "Queen of Soul" died last August leaving an estate with an estimated value of $80 million.

At first her lawyer said she died without a Will.

But in May of this year, a search of her home in suburban Detroit yielded twelve pages of handwritten notes supposedly written by Aretha. The lawyer delivered the pages to the court late in May for the court's review.

The do-it-yourself disorderly disaster

Corporate owners in many occupations proudly display the fruits of their business acumen. The auto dealership owner drives a Ford Shelby. The dentist dazzles his friends with a bright, white smile. The jeweler's wife wears a 6-carat flawless diamond wedding ring. 

Some professionals, such as brain surgeons, do not perform their own brain surgery. They recruit a team of esteemed colleagues to do the honors. Famous film stars use stunt doubles. A judge hires an experienced probate attorney to draw up his estate plan. 

An outdated estate plan leads to chaos

Legendary musician Barry White left behind more than just a legacy of iconic music. His estate planning blunder became a cautionary tale to others in his position. The lesson is clear: Do not wait too long to make changes to your will, especially if your health is suffering.

A good rule of thumb for testamentary updates is every three to five years, but major life events call for immediate evaluation. If not, you may end up placing your entire estate in the wrong hands, much like Barry White did. Make sure you review your plan at these crucial points.

What are Letters Testamentary?


"Letters Testamentary" is a Minnesota court order appointing a person as personal representative or executor of the Will of a deceased person.

The terminology "Letters" comes from Old English legal usage that meant a writ or order issued by a judge. "Testamentary" refers to the written document called a Will which provides for the distribution of the possessions of a loved one after he or she dies.

Letters Testamentary gives the person appointed the legal authority to stand in the shoes of the decedent. In other words, the personal representative can get any information about accounts or assets or manage the assets that the decedent had.

How Should Your Estate Plan Treat the Family's Black Sheep?

black sheep.jpgLet's face it. Many families have a Black Sheep that has caused serious problems for the family and himself or herself.

When it comes to working on your estate plan, you may do so with the goal of leaving as much of what you worked your whole life to obtain behind for your loved ones as possible.

However, in some cases, there may be additional considerations involved. For example, maybe you have several children, and you want to distribute your assets between or among them after your passing, but you do not necessarily want to make equal distributions to each of your children.

Perhaps you have a child who has been attentive to your physical or health needs while another child or children may have not done so. You may want to reward the child who sacrificed to give you that care.

Similarly, you may have a child who is struggling with, for example,  alcohol, drug or gambling problem, and you have concerns about leaving this child money and are considering perhaps disinheriting him or her.

In such situations, you may want to consider establishing a living trust, which can help address these and similar family issues. Just how can creating a trust help you, if you are facing one of the above situations?

Two famous cases show the deeply emotional side of probate

Someone who has prepared a will may gather the family together to explain the provisions and what each heir can expect to receive.

Other times, the heirs have no idea what the decedent put in his or her will, and an inheritance or lack thereof may come as an unwelcome surprise, spawning fierce family arguments as illustrated by two famous probate cases.

Are you protecting your internet digital resources for you and your heirs?

If you are like most people, you are putting more of your digital life on the internet. You put memorable family pictures on Facebook or other social media. Your on-line banking and tax records are very likely saved on your computer. You scan important documents and upload them to your computer. You save important hobby or recreational data on line. If you own web domains or an online business, those are valuable assets of your estate.

According to, if you are 65 years of age or more, on an average 12% of your vital information is preserved on line. If you're age 45, 56% of your life data is locked in your computer. At age 25, 72% of your history is web-based and if you were born in this century, a whopping 86% of your life records are digital.

What would happen to that treasured data if you die or become disabled and cannot retrieve them? Would these assets be lost to you and your heirs?

Internet Assets

3 mistakes when people choose life insurance beneficiaries

A Minnesota man made headlines when he faked his own death for the life insurance payment. Law enforcement arrested him abroad and brought him back to the United States to stand trial. 

While scams like this tend to make headlines, most people use their life insurance policies correctly and assign proper beneficiaries. However, Minnesota residents make plenty of mistakes when it comes to naming these beneficiaries. These mistakes can compromise the payout, so it is vital to remain aware of them. 


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