Estate Planning and Probate
Representing Clients Throughout the Lake Minnetonka Area
We prepare estate plans that are custom-designed for our client’s circumstances and lifestyles. Planning for end-of-life issues including distribution of assets, minimization of taxes, probate avoidance, and disability entails making hard decisions. Although thinking about death and disability may at times be unpleasant or difficult, proper estate planning will keep you in control of your finances, both before and after your death. It can also spare your loved ones’ expense, delay, and frustration often associated with managing your affairs, both if you become disabled, and after you die. Our attorneys can help you navigate the difficulties and decisions of establishing a quality estate plan.
At the Lang Law Office, we have more than 30 years of experience in providing estate planning and probate guidance and counsel to individuals and families. We give individualized service to our clients so that we can focus complete attention on the distinct and particular needs of each client’s estate plan. Whether you are looking to establish a complex trust or a basic will, our attorneys can help guide you to your optimal estate plan.
The estate plans we prepare for our clients often utilize one or more of the following instruments:
- Basic wills
- Complex wills with trust provisions
- Revocable living trusts
- Charitable lead trusts
- Charitable remainder trusts
- Supplemental and special needs trusts
- Irrevocable life insurance trusts
- Powers of attorney
- Health care directives (also called living wills)
- Transfer on death deeds
We also provide succession planning for closely-held and family businesses, and we can represent you in any conservatorship/guardianship proceedings.
Revocable trusts are powerful estate planning tools that have many benefits, including:
- Avoid probate
- Control assets after death
- Avoid conservatorship or guardianship
Revocable trusts provide a more complex, thorough set of instructions for management of a person’s estate, both during life and after death. A revocable trust is an arrangement you create which takes effect during your lifetime. Once created, it stays in place unless you choose to amend it, which can be done at any time before death. The terms of a revocable trust are embodied in a written instrument, which our attorneys will create with your instruction. You can designate who will receive distributions of income and principal from the trust, as well as when and under what circumstances distributions will be made. A revocable trust allows you control over your assets, even beyond the span of your life. A revocable trust will allow your estate to bypass the probate process, sparing your loved ones the costs, time, and emotional burden of a complicated legal proceeding. You can also plan for and possibly reduce or eliminate any state and federal estate tax obligations. Perhaps most importantly, a revocable trust will give you peace of mind that you have prepared your estate for an efficient transition on your death that meets your needs and desires, but also looks after your loved ones in the future.
We represent our clients in the probate process. Probate, also called estate administration, is a court proceeding instituted to safeguard a deceased person’s assets for distribution to the rightful heirs and distributees. Probate may be required if the deceased had no will, or even if the deceased did have a will. By law, the personal representative, also known as the executor, is charged with the responsibility to identify and collect the deceased’s assets, verify and pay any obligations and taxes, and distribute the net assets to the proper persons. Because the personal representative is charged with handing other peoples’ assets, the personal representative is held to a very high standard of care. As a general rule, the personal representative of the estate will retain us to be the legal representative to guide him or her through the proceedings.
The probate process is a lengthy and complex one. We assist our clients with the procedural and timing requirements that are a daunting task. While every probate concerns different facts, there are a few common court procedural documents, which include the following:
- Application for informal probate of will and for informal appointment of personal representative
- Acceptance of appointment as personal representative and oath
- Nomination of personal representative and renunciation of priority for appointment
- Notice of informal probate of will, informal appointment of personal representative, and notice to creditors
- Statement of informal probate of will and order of informal appointment of personal representative
- Notices to spouse and children
- Notice of publication
- Letters testamentary/letters of general administration
- Notice to the commissioner of human services regarding medical assistance
These documents are only some of the many pleadings required for a probate. We will act as your representative before the probate court. We will prepare and file all the pleadings and legal documents necessary to move the estate through the probate process. We will assist you with inventorying the estate’s assets, and to determine which creditors must be paid, and in which order. Not all creditors must be paid in every instance. We will also prepare a final account, as necessary, and ultimately assist the personal representative with distribution of the estate to the heirs and distributees. The size and complexity of the estate and the agreement or disagreement of the heirs will affect the length of time necessary to complete the probate. At a minimum, statutes provide that creditors must be given 4 months notice to submit claims for payment to the estate. The probate process can be long and daunting. The attorneys at the Lang Law Office can help you successfully navigate it.
Probate, Will, and Trust Disputes
The attorneys at the Lang Law Office represent clients involved in disputes related to probate, wills, trust, and powers of attorney. Disputes can arise frequently following a death. Arguments may arise over how to interpret a will or trust, who will be beneficiary and how much a beneficiary will inherit. Allegations of theft or breach of fiduciary duty by a personal representative, trustee, or a person holding a power of attorney may be made. The competency of the deceased may be brought into question or an allegation may be made that the deceased was unduly influenced. Creditors may bring claims against the estate. We represent our clients in negotiations and litigation concerning the following issues:
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Misuse of power of attorney
- Lack of capacity
- Undue influence
- Creditor claims
- Interpretation of a will or trust
For many clients, life insurance policies and other forms of coverage represent substantial assets within their estate. However, while insurance can provide large sums of money to your survivors, that money can and usually is subject to federal and state estate tax. A vital part of estate planning is ensuring that any insurance proceeds your estate receives is sheltered from taxation as much as possible. A typical way we deal with the significant estate tax is through an irrevocable life insurance trust, also called an ILIT. Unlike a revocable trust, an ILIT is irrevocable once created. It is a tax shelter for life insurance proceeds, as any funds placed in an ILIT are not generally included in a decedent’s taxable estate. An ILIT also allows you to provide instructions for how and when money is to be distributed from the trust, and can give you the ability to control the flow of income to your descendants, who may be too young or too irresponsible to handle a large windfall at the time of creation. ILITs are useful tools, but they are also complex. Our attorneys can help you decide if an ILIT is the right tool to accomplish your estate planning goals.
High Net Worth Estate Planning
While, for many clients, a basic will or trust is acceptable, some clients have more substantial estates, and want to make sure that they can effectively direct the disposition of their assets in a way that is both economical and appropriate to their individual situation. Whether you are looking to set up trusts for the benefit of multiple generations of your family, or want to provide some sort of long-term endowment for a charity, our attorneys can help explain your options, and assist you in deciding how best to share your wealth with others. We can also help you navigate the complicated state and federal tax laws, and ensure that your estate and loved ones are burdened with as little tax as possible. We will also help you create instruments which will allow you to avoid probate court as much as possible. While planning for high net worth clients may include features found in more modest estates, wealth brings with it certain additional considerations and complications. Our attorneys will ensure that you receive all the assistance you might need to create an effective estate plan that fits all of your needs.
Contact our office today to discuss your legal issue. We will provide a complete evaluation of your case and help you understand your legal options and responsibilities. You can reach us at 952-470-6361, or by email.