Common Mistakes Made When Handling Your Own Minnesota Estate Planning

by Flanders Law Firm LLC on October 19, 2017

Minnesota Probate LawyersCommon mistakes when drafting your own estate plan

We discussed some of the dangers of drafting your own estate plan last week as well as the questions to keep in mind if you’re thinking about doing it yourself. For those that are still determined to create an estate plan alone, there are some common mistakes that DIY drafters routinely make that you should be aware of. To learn more about the kinds of things individuals often get wrong (and that an experienced estate planning attorney will be sure to get right), keep reading.

Placing conditions on payouts

One of the most common sources of trouble for those drafting their own estate plans is when it comes to conditions on payouts to heirs. Those drafting for themselves can get carried away on occasion, placing illegal or unenforceable conditions on certain payments. For instance, if you stipulate that a child must divorce a spouse you don’t like before receiving his or her inheritance, courts will deem this as against public policy and will refuse to enforce it. In other cases, DIY drafters will insert language that requires someone to follow up to validate performance (such as a child graduating from college or seeking treatment for an addiction), but won’t think to include language explaining who is in charge of validating that this actually occurs and how much that person should be paid for the work.

Wills vs. living wills

Another common mistake is that people are confused and aren’t sure where to put end-of-life information. Many will assume that the way to handle this by inserting language in their will. What they should do is create a living will, which exists for the sole purpose of tackling these questions. The problem with a will is that it likely won’t be read until after the person has passed away, meaning it’s too late to be of any use.

Second marriages and blended families

Another common problem for those drafting their own wills is failing to take into account the special challenges of blended families. A simple will leaving your belongings to your spouse may make sense if you’re still in your first marriage. It may not make as much sense if you’re on marriage #2 (or #3). The problem is that if you die and leave everything to your spouse, if you aren’t careful then when your spouse dies your children may miss out, with your spouse’s heirs inheriting everything. An experienced estate planning attorney knows to watch out for these issues and will craft a plan to ensure that your loved ones remain protected no matter what.


Though it may sound funny, experts say it is very common for people to want to be sure that their pets are well taken care of. Those who are drafting their own estate plans fall into fairly predictable traps when it comes to their pets. In a rush to ensure their animals are looked after, they insert language into their will leaving money or valuable items of personal property directly to the pet. Doing this is a big mistake. You need to leave money not to the pet (who is not a legal person), but to a human being who can be named as a caretaker of the pet. This is the only way to ensure your pet is properly cared for after you’re gone.

An experiencedMinnesota estate-planning lawyercan help walk you through the complicated process of establishing a workable estate plan. For more information on estate planning in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contactJoseph M. FlandersofFlanders Law Firmat (612) 424-0398.

Source:The Case Against Do-It-Yourself Wills,” by Deborah Jacobs, published at



Minnesota Probate Law | Subject Matter Jurisdiction

by Flanders Law Firm LLC on October 10, 2017

Subject matter jurisdictionSubject Matter Jurisdiction in a MN Probate

In a probate proceeding, the personal representative of the estate files an application with the probate court in the county where the decedent lived at the time of his or her death. This process triggers entry into probate court. All counties in Minnesota have probate courts to hear matters relating to the administration of an estate. However, there is some confusion about the scope of a probate courts authority to hear other matters subject-matter jurisdiction in legal parlance. This article clarifies probate court jurisdiction in Minnesota.

Historically, Minnesota limited the probate courts jurisdiction over other matters not specifically related to probate. Previously, the Minnesota Constitution gave probate court exclusive jurisdiction over the estates of deceased persons and those under guardianship. In re Petersons Estate, 202 Minn. 21, 39 (1938). Put another way, probate court had jurisdiction only over matters directly connected to the estate in question. However, the Minnesota Supreme Court later held the rule announced in Estate of Peterson no longer applied. Instead, the creation of the Minnesota Court of Appeals essentially consolidated the probate court into Minnesota district courts. In re Estate of Janecek, 610 N.W. 2d 638, 640. (Minn. 2000).

Estate of Janecek expanded the scope of matters over which the probate court may hear. In re RIJ Revocable Trust 2014 WL 685698 (Minn. Ct. App. Feb. 24, 2014), is an example. The decedent in RIJ Revocable Trust established a remainder trust for spousal maintenance. Id. at *1. Prior to his death, the father revoked the trust, disinherited two of his children, and devised his entire estate to his daughter. Id. The decedents two other children filed complaints in probate court alleging undue influence, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, and fraud. Id. at *2. The beneficiary daughter challenged the probate courts authority to hear the civil actions. The district court concluded it had subject-matter jurisdiction over trust matters and related petitions and the daughter appealed. Id. at *4. The Court of Appeals upheld the district courts determination of subject-matter jurisdiction and cited the Supreme Courts opinion in Janecek. It noted [t]here is no district court which is not also a probate court, and no distinction between the courts. Id. at *5 (citing Estate of Matthews, 558 N.W. 2d 263, 265 (Minn. Ct. App. 1997). However, the Court of Appeals did opine district courts should clarify the scope of trust proceedings. Id. at *9.

Historically, probate courts and district courts were separate in Minnesota with the former having limited jurisdiction over estate matters. However, Minnesota caselaw altered that distinction and probate courts may hear civil claims related to the administration of an estate. For more estate planning advice, contact a knowledgeable Minnesota estate planning attorney.

Minnesota Probate Lawyers

If you need further information on subject matter jurisdiction in a Minnesota probate case, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm LLC at612-424-0398.



MN Probate Law | When Death Isn’t Definite

October 6, 2017

When dealing with probate and estate planning issues, an unfortunate prerequisite is death. Someone has passed away and loved ones have to scramble to get their ducks in a row. The assumption is that death is concrete, tangible and easily ascertained. Its everything else that’s supposed to be complicated. Though that’s often true, it isn’t […]

Read the full article →

MN Estate Planning | Titling of Property in Minnesota

September 20, 2017

A recent article in the Washington Post involved a letter from a reader asking whether she and her husband needed to create a trust to ensure that, in the event of eithers death, the other would be guaranteed to take ownership of the family home seamlessly. The author of the article dove into the issue […]

Read the full article →

Time Limits for Probating a Will in Minnesota

September 5, 2017

Typically, when we discuss timing and probate, the issue concerns how fast (or slow) the probate court is likely to move. Though this is a common question, and a good one to understand, for some people moving quickly may not be what theyre most concerned about. In such cases, the question is not how fast […]

Read the full article →

Minnesota Wills | The Dangers Of Estate Planning On Your Own

August 9, 2017

Many people understand the importance of creating an estate plan and the risks that can come from failing to do so. In an attempt to get their ducks in a row, some might decide to try a DIY approach, going online and paying some internet legal document creation company for a template will, trust or […]

Read the full article →

Minnesota Revocable Trusts | Trust Law

June 29, 2017

There are all kinds of trusts floating around out in the world: revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, charitable trusts, special needs trusts, spendthrift trusts, asset protection trusts, constructive trusts, etc., etc. With so many options, it can be hard to understand which is which and what one or ones are worth considering given your particular circumstances. […]

Read the full article →

Free Consultation | Minnesota Wills and Trusts

May 2, 2017

The firm is happy to announce that we are now offering discounted Wills and Trusts. We will only be doing this for a limited time. Please contact the firm to get started with your free consultation. Ask about the discount when you call at 612-424-0398 Joseph M. Flanders and the firm work with clients from every […]

Read the full article →

MN Probate Court | Subject Matter Jurisdiction

May 1, 2017

In a probate proceeding, the personal representative of the estate files an application with the probate court in the county where the decedent lived at the time of his or her death. This process triggers entry into probate court. All counties in Minnesota have probate courts to hear matters relating to the administration of an […]

Read the full article →

Estate Planning in Minnesota | Different ways of dividing property

April 26, 2017

If you’re preparing to create an estate plan, you might think it’s all pretty straightforward. Simply write down a list of names and you’re done. Once you’re gone, those named heirs will receive their designated items, no muss, no fuss. Though possible, things seldom go so smoothly. Instead, life intervenes and can disrupt your supposedly […]

Read the full article →