Minnesota Estate Planning: What A Will Won’t Do

by Flanders Law Firm LLC on July 1, 2013

Minnesota Codicil to a WillMinnesota Wills are wonderful things.

We’ve discussed before how important it is to create and update a Minnesota will and how a proper estate plan can help to ensure that your wishes are carried out after you’re gone. While the benefits of a will are undeniable, the fact is wills do not do everything. Though a will should hold a critical place in your end of life plan, it’s important to recognize that there are limits to what a will can do.

No. 1: Wills cannot distribute certain types of property

First things first, though Minnesota wills are important legal documents, it’s important to understand that your will only governs assets that pass through probate, and many assets pass outside the probate system. For instance, if you and your spouse own a home jointly with right of survivorship, the house will go directly to your spouse, no need for a will. Similarly, your retirement accounts, life insurance and any assets left in a trust will pass directly to the named beneficiaries and a will won’t matter.

No. 2: Wills cannot reduce estate taxes

The good news here is that according to Internal Revenue Service statistics for federal estate tax returns filed in 2010, something like 99.7 percent of folks die with estates worth less than $5 million, which is below the current exemption for federal estate taxes. That means you there’s no need to shield your estate from federal taxes in the first place.

However, if you’re one of the lucky families with assets greater than the federal estate tax exemption, you will need to pursue other avenues, such as trust funds, to help maximize the money your family keeps. Simply passing assets along directly to your heirs, which is the way a will works, is not the most tax efficient route.

No. 3: Wills cannot provide for someone’s long-term care

If you want to provide for someone with long-term care needs, especially someone with special needs, a will is not the way to do it. Instead, you need to create something like a Minnesota special needs trust specifically designed to care for that person’s individual needs. A trust can provide income for that person without putting their access to government benefits at risk.

No. 4: Wills cannot leave funeral instructions

In the vast majority of cases wills are not read, and sometimes not even found, until several days or weeks after a person’s death. That means it’s typically too late to be of use to someone who is trying to make quick decisions about how to dispose of a body or plan funeral services. To ensure your desires are followed, draft a separate document that lists your wishes and be sure to tell the executor of your estate where to find it when the time comes.

No. 5: Wills cannot provide for pets

Though this one may appear silly to some, the fact is plenty of people are deeply attached to and concerned about the welfare of their beloved pets. As adopted members of the family many people want to ensure they are well cared for after they are gone. However, pets cannot legally own property so there’s no way to grant assets to them directly. This means concerned owners will either need to establish a special pet trust or designate a caretaker and provide that person with enough money to take care of your pet after you are gone.

Though it may be confusing, creating a will does not have to be an overly complicated process. An experienced Minnesota estate-planning lawyer can help walk you through the process of establishing or updating will. For more information on estate planning in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at (612) 424-0398.

Source: “Wills,” published at AG.State.MN.US.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

The Importance Of A Will In Minnesota

How To Change A Will In Minnesota

Related posts:


Previous post:

Next post: