Estate planning is the process of designating who will receive property and assets and handle responsibilities after a person's death or incapacitation. Effective estate planning can ensure that taxes are minimized and that assets are properly distributed to intended beneficiaries. Useful estate planning tools include wills, trusts, powers of attorney, powers of appointment, and advance healthcare directives (also known as living wills).
In the absence of a will, state law will determine how a deceased person's property is distributed through probate. The default rules under state law can result in property being distributed to a deceased person's relatives in a manner that the person may not have preferred. Estate planning is therefore important for all people, not just the retired or the very wealthy.
Probate is the court-supervised process of administering an estate after a person dies. In probate, an estate's assets are identified and distributed to beneficiaries and creditors. Probate proceedings may include the appraisal of estate property, the paying of taxes and debts, the proving of the validity of a will, or the transfer of title of property. Probate proceedings can be expensive and time consuming. Effective estate planning with a trust and estate attorney-including the preparation of a will-can help reduce such costs.
A trust is an arrangement in which a trustee is given legal title of property or assets to hold on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. The person who creates the trust is known as the trustor or settlor. Trusts can be established for various reasons, including to ensure that property and assets are distributed according the settlor's wishes, to reduce tax liability, or to ensure that certain assets avoid probate. A trustee owes fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries of the trust and must manage the trust's assets in the beneficiaries' interests.
Trusts come in various forms depending on their purpose. Common types of trusts include living trusts (revocable or irrevocable), testamentary trusts, spendthrift trusts, burial trusts, charitable trusts, and pet trusts. An experienced trust and estate attorney can help identify which type of trust is appropriate given the client's needs and assist in drafting documents related to the trust.
A power of attorney is a legal document that grants one person (known as the agent) the ability to act on behalf of another person (the principal). Powers of attorney are frequently drafted in anticipation of the principal's potential inability to act because of disability or illness or when it would simply not be convenient for a principal to be present to sign necessary legal documents. Carefully drafted powers of attorney can help avoid costly court interventions and proceedings in the future.
Hessian & McKasy P.A., based in Minneapolis, MN, has experienced trust and estate attorneys who can assist with all aspects of trust and estate law, including analysis and planning, probate matters, and tax issues. Additionally, our attorneys can handle trust and estate litigation, such as fiduciary breach claims, trustee removal, reformation of instruments, will contests, and claims of lack of capacity or undue influence. Contact us today to learn more about how our trust and estate attorneys in Minneapolis, MN can assist you.