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Minnesota Probate and Estate Planning Blog

What is a breach of fiduciary duty?

If someone has named you in a Last Will and Testament as the executor of his or her Minnesota estate, this means that you are the one whose duty it is to take the estate through probate after the person dies. As the executor, you will have many duties, all of which are fiduciary in nature. What this means is that you are the 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 you do, you have a fiduciary duty to the heirs and beneficiaries to keep their interests foremost and above your own.

No one expects you to perform your duties perfectly. You are, after all, a human being and human beings occasionally make mistakes. Therefore, should you inadvertently make a calculation error or some other unintended mistake, you will not be held accountable for it. Only if you deliberately do something against the best interests of the heirs and beneficiaries can one or more of them sue you for breach of your fiduciary 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: 

Are probate fights more frequent in stepfamilies?

Probate is the process by which the courts establish the validity of a will in order to administer and distribute the assets of a deceased person. It is also the process by which the court handles asset distribution and settling the estate if the deceased person did not leave a will.

This process can be even more complex in a stepfamily, given the additional family members and their claims to a deceased family member's assets. In fact, probate fights may be more frequent in stepfamilies due to a variety of factors.

Does the new tax law make my estate plan obsolete?

If you have not updated your Minnesota estate plan since the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act went into effect on January 1 of this year, you may wish to do so. One of the TCJA’s major provisions is the doubling of the federal estate tax exemption which increased from $5.9 million to $11.2 million for an individual. For married couples, the federal estate tax exemption is now $22.4 million.

What this means is that unless you and your spouse are super rich, you likely can now pass your entire mutual estates to your heirs and beneficiaries without paying federal estate taxes thanks to the Act’s portability provisions. The catch, however, and the reason why your current estate plan may be obsolete, is that all your estate planning documents and those of your spouse must contain the required wording to qualify for portability.

Where should you keep estate planning documents?

It is never too early to create an estate plan. These documents need to include durable powers of attorney along with healthcare directives. You also need to make sure you update your will regularly as your life changes. 

Once you have an estate plan ready to go, you need to make sure you keep it in the right place so it is readily accessible. These documents will not do much if no one can find them, and the best course of action is to have multiple copies kept at several locations.

My parent died, do I need a probate attorney?

As the adult child of elderly parents, you had likely been aware for some time that one or both of your parents are nearing the end of their lives. However, the impact of a parent's death is never something that one can fully be ready for or expect, regardless of how much pre-planning takes place. 

When a parent dies, the process of distributing his or her assets begins. Even if your parent had a will indicating wishes regarding assets, the process is not as simple as it may seem. You may be wondering whether you need an attorney to assist you, especially if there is family conflict. 

Whom can you trust with your estate

When most people think about estate planning, they spend a long time considering how they want to leave their assets. However, if you do not put the same amount of thought into choosing the personal representative who will administer the estate, you may be putting your envisioned dispositions at risk.

A personal representative, also commonly called an executor, fulfills several serious responsibilities in making sure probate goes smoothly and your assets are distributed according to your wishes. He or she can - and should - have the assistance of a qualified attorney; ultimately, however, he or she should possess the characteristics to do the job properly.

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