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Minnesota Probate and Estate Planning Blog

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. 

What is a Fiduciary and what amounts to a breach of duty?

A testator is a person who signs a Will for the distribution of his or her property after death. Typically the testator will nominate someone to be the executor or personal representative of the estate.

This person is a "fiduciary" which means that person is handling the assets of the decedent on behalf of other persons. The executor is accountable to the person or persons for whom he or she is administering the funds or property.

The executor has many duties, all of which are fiduciary in nature. What this means is that he or she is a person the testator trusted enough to place his or estate into your hands for the purpose of collecting, managing, accounting for and ultimately distributing its assets to the heirs and beneficiaries as specified in the will. In other words, in all that the executor does, he or she has a fiduciary duty to the heirs and beneficiaries to keep their interests foremost and above the executor's personal or financial interests.

No one expects the executor  to perform his or her duties flawlessly. He or she is, after all, a human being and human beings occasionally make mistakes. Therefore, should the executor inadvertently make a calculation error or some other unintended mistake, the executor will not usually be held accountable for it. Only if the executor deliberately does something against the best interests of the heirs and beneficiaries can one or more of them sue the executor for breach of their duty.

Trusts are not just for the rich and famous

When it comes to estate planning in Bloomington, the things you overlook could cause your heirs grief and turmoil. Most people make their estate plans with the best intentions in mind for their heirs. If you are going over your estate plans, it is important for you to know when to use trusts and to fund them in a timely manner to prevent issues with your wishes that cause your family and estate to end up in probate court.

Contrary to popular misconception, trusts are not only for the wealthy. When used properly, they are a convenient and practical way to keep your estate from having to go through probate. Trusts are one of several tools you can use to make your estate plans probate-proof.

Weird Halloween Laws

Halloween KidsHalloween is a holiday that features the weird and wacky. But all the Halloween "Trick or Treat" pranks cannot equal the bizarre actions of our elected legislators. Here is a sampling of the Ten Most Absurd Laws by some of our elected representatives. In true David Letterman style, I will go from the mildly ridiculous to the most outrageous.

3 signs your heirs will fight over your estate

It is normal for families to squabble and fight, but rivalries and grudges may come to an all-time high when inheritance enters the picture. No matter how kind and respectful your family members are, you should prepare your estate properly to avoid arguments during the probate process. 

Estate administration can be fraught with disputes. Are you afraid your beneficiaries will feud over your property and money? Here are some red flags that your heirs may quarrel over your estate: 


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