Understanding Your Needs,
Protecting Your Future

 

Estate Planning

ASSET PROTECTION PLANNING
At The Legal Professionals PA we say “YOU HAVE ASSETS. WE PROTECT THEM” for a reason:  We strongly believe that if you have things that are important to you, it makes sense to protect them. That’s what we do.

Frequently clients come to our office and say “We want to make a simple will.”  Our response is “You are the smartest people in the room at this moment because you are thinking about what will happen on the day you die.  But have you thought about all the bumps in the road in the meantime – disability (incapacity), nursing home, state and federal death taxes? And are you aware that the ‘simple will’ you want is often times just a key to the courthouse for the lawyer and that your estate may have to be probated, all of which takes a lot of time, involves costs that you can’t control, and oh, by the way, leaves all your information open to the public?  Is that what you want?”  The clients always answer with a resounding “NO!”

Then we talk about the right way to do estate planning.

Avoiding Probate

Probate is going to court to have the title to your assets, especially land, transferred to your heirs.  A Will doesn’t do this; it just tells the court who gets what. The average probate takes 12 -18 months and costs $3,000 to $7,000, and sometimes a lot more than that. During the probate a document called the Inventory gets filed, which makes public every asset you own at the time of your death.

Historically, estate lawyers made their living selling cheap simple wills to clients, built file drawers full of Wills, and then, when the client died, probated the will.  Little effort was put into planning.  This has been an acceptable business model for decades, and many attorneys feel “If it ain’t broke why fix it?”

Modern estate planning lawyers believe the old way is broken, and that by planning ahead clients can remove from their estate planning all the bad things about probate.

We help clients by:

  • providing the right estate planning documents at a set price agreed upon in advance;
  • preparing an estate plan that quickly and efficiently distributes assets to heirs, which also helps reduce the cost to settle an estate; and
  • making sure that the entire process is privileged and confidential.

Instead of the old way, we say let’s do things the right way.

Disability (Incapacity)
This topic is not just for the elderly. Forty percent of adults receiving long term care are between the ages of 18-64, according to the National Clearinghouse for Long Term Care Information, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  

Whether it’s due to an injury or because of aging, incapacity is an issue each one of us may face as a bump in the road of life. Incapacity is, in simple terms, not having the mental ability, temporarily or permanently, to make the important decisions of life, which usually involves financial and medical matters.

Absent proper planning, family members must resort to the courts by bringing a guardianship or conservatorship action in order to act on behalf of loved ones. We call this a “living probate” because it means going to court, paying lawyers and possibly accountants, appearing at court hearings, and disclosing each and every asset in court documents that are available and open to the public.  It’s expensive, time consuming and, in short, a big hassle.  

How do we smooth out this bump?  First, “simple” documents – a statutory short form power of attorney or form-based living will – are not adequate. The former is merely check-the-box drafting and has severe legal limitations on its use.  The latter will do for someone on their death bed, but it is no substitute for a well thought out Health Care Directive, with definitions and detailed instructions for times when life sustaining decisions have to be made.

Well crafted documents serve clients better. A General Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Directive with personal instructions, accompanied by an effective HIPAA authorization should be part of every proper estate plan. These documents, done right, will insure that a “living probate” will not be visited upon your loved ones.


Nursing Home (Medicaid) Planning
Recent enactment of laws in Minnesota in 2003 and 2006 severely limit advance planning to avoid nursing home costs. No longer can you simply create a life estate in your land or gift money to the kids and be protected from a lien by the county. And spending down to the bare bottom limits set by the medical assistance rules is simply not the answer.

The right answer is planning ahead.  This area is full of pitfalls and there are no cookie cutter solutions. Knowing the rules is the key. At The Legal Professionals we have access to the best minds who work in this complex area, and we are ready to go to work for you.


Wealth Counsel, LLC/Southern Minnesota Estate Planning Counsel, LLC
It is said that people are known by the company they keep.  Our estate planning attorneys belong to Wealth Counsel, LLC, a national network of over 1600 attorneys who practice primarily estate planning. This organization affords us access to the most current laws on the federal level, in Minnesota and in every other state. Sometimes good planning calls for a trust or corporation to be sited in a state other than Minnesota, so knowing the laws, as well as experienced attorneys, in other states is important.

Plus, through Wealth Counsel we subscribe to the most up to date estate planning software that goes way beyond the Continuing Legal Education form books relied upon in the past by many attorneys. Our software allows us to custom design the planning instruments that will best serve your needs, and we invite you into the design and drafting process, all in an effort to de-mystify the documents by helping you better understand them.

In addition, Partner Steven J. Franta, and attorney William D. Sommerness are founding members of Southern Minnesota Estate Planning Counsel LLC (SMEC), which consists of attorneys in our area who belong to Wealth Counsel and specialize in estate and/or medical assistance planning.

Recently our firm was hired by a client who checked out other lawyers in southern Minnesota and told us that she hired our firm because “you’re up on things.”  This simple Midwestern euphemism speaks volumes: we are up on things because estate planning is what we do, and the company we keep, namely the attorney members of Wealth Counsel and SMEC, are available with ideas and advice when we need it.