Law Notes

Roots of Inheritance and the fascinating history of the Death Tax

    This op-ed in the Star Tribune penned by a teacher in Lino Lakes proposed an end to inheritance.  In other words, that the government impose a 100% death tax.  The basic idea promoted was to allow the government to take all assets in the name of the decedent and redistribute those assets to individuals the government deems worthy or in need.  After reading it I thought it may be appropriate to offer some background of inheritance in our culture.

    The so called death tax dates back as far as 700 B.C., when decedents in Egypt were subject to a 10% tax on the transfer of property at death. The history of the death tax in the United States reveals that the tax was a vehicle to fund war. The first death tax in the United States was imposed in the Stamp Act of 1797 to pay off war debts.  Ironically, the Stamp Act inspired a Revolutionary War, leading to Congress repealing the Stamp Act in 1802.  Over the next hundred years the inheritance tax was enacted to cover wars, and then repealed when the war ended or when the war debts were paid. In 1862, Congress passed the Tax Act imposing a federal death tax to finance the Civil War.  The need for increased revenues dissipated when the Civil War ended in 1865, and the death tax was subsequently repealed in 1870.  Finally, with the passage of the Revenue Act of 1916 (primary purpose was to create the income tax), Congress imposed a death tax that was not directly legislated to fund wars.  Although, not even one year later the tax was increased to fund the United States involvement in World War I.  Following the end of World War I in 1918, Congress never repealed the death tax and Americans have been paying it ever since.  Currently, there is both a federal inheritance tax and a Minnesota inheritance tax.

    Before considering proposals such as a 100% death tax from well-meaning citizens, it is important to understand why as a culture we generally value inheritance.  Historically, inheritance in Western Civilization has had a direct relation to the family structure.  In Western Civilization, property has long been intended for not only the good of the individual but of the family. Therefore, the law has encouraged that the family should be supported from the property of a deceased owner. If a person dies without a will and without declaring heirs, the family always has the first claim on the property, and civil law has always reflected that primary responsibility of the family. It has also been a fixture in the law that a person may make any disposal of his or her property that would have been legitimate when that person was alive. Implied inheritance, therefore, is the natural right to dispose of one’s property not only during life but also after death.  That has been the understanding of inheritance in our culture for thousands of years.  However, if the President were to follow the advice from the LinoLakes teacher and impose law that all property of the decedent at the time of death shall become the government’s, it would effectively abolish thousands of years of jurisprudence.

    Whether you form a position on the issue or not, it is always important to be well informed before reaching a conclusion and advocating for the same.  For what would seem like a boring issue, the history of “the death tax” is fascinating as it is woven with the history of wars, tenets of religion, Western Civilization culture, and development of tax laws in the United States.

    *This article does not constitute legal advice and is not intended to constitute advertising or solicitation for legal services. Nothing in this article should be construed by you as a source of legal advice. You should not rely or act upon the contents of this article without seeking advice from your own attorney.

    Non-Competition Agreements in Minnesota

      More often than not, if anyone has signed a non-competition agreement, it is because it was included in their initial employment packet of documents to sign before the first day on the job.  It is rare to negotiate the terms of a non-competition agreement, and even if the new employer is open to negotiation there exists an obvious unequal bargaining position.  Accordingly,   non-competition agreements are generally disfavored in Minnesota. However, that does not mean that following termination of employment that one may not be effectively enforced by the former employer.

      Non-competition agreements have long been carefully scrutinized by Minnesota Courts and have been traditionally disfavored as restraints on an individual’s ability to make a living. As the Minnesota Supreme Court said almost one hundred years ago, “[o]ne who has nothing but his labor to sell, and is in urgent need of selling that, cannot well afford to raise any objection to any of the terms in the contract of employment offered him, so long as the wages are acceptable.” Menter Co. v. Brock, 147 Minn. 407, 411, 180 N.W. 553, 555 (1920).  So, if enforcing a non-competition agreement is so difficult why bother?

      In Minnesota, a Court may enforce a non-competition clause if it is necessary to protect reasonable interests of an employer, and does not impose unreasonable restraints on the rights of the employee. In determining whether the restraint is valid, Minnesota Courts analyze whether the restraint is for a just and honest purpose, for the protection of a legitimate interest of the party in whose favor it is imposed, reasonable as between the parties, and not injurious to the public.

      Non-competition agreements are typically enforced through the filing of a motion for a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction. The former employer can usually request attorney’s fees pursuant to the agreement. Some of the most common reasons a non-competition agreement may fail is because it lacks consideration (nothing received by employee in exchange for agreeing to the restriction), the geographic scope may be too unreasonably expansive, or the restriction is for too many years.

      Depending on the business, it may be worth it to enforce the non-competition agreement to protect the business from a former employee joining a competitor while revealing trade secrets, client lists, business and marketing plans, and myriad other forms of confidential information.  Furthermore, even if the restriction is deemed to be too excessive, Minnesota allows the Court to modify the contract under what is called the “blue pencil doctrine” to enforce a particular provision in a reasonable manner. Under the blue pencil doctrine as it has developed in Minnesota, a Court can take an overly broad restriction and enforce it only to the extent that it is reasonable.

      Litigation over non-competition agreements can be costly. Whether you are a former employee subject to a non-competition agreement trying to find a new job to make a living, the former employer trying to protect its business interests by possibly enforcing the non-competition agreement, or the new employer hiring the former employee, these issues should not be taken lightly.

       

       

      *This article does not constitute legal advice and is not intended to constitute advertising or solicitation for legal services. Nothing in this article should be construed by you as a source of legal advice. You should not rely or act upon the contents of this article without seeking advice from your own attorney.

      Is My Home Under Warranty?

        Did you know that your home may be under warranty per Minnesota Statute Chapter 327A?  The warranties within the statute must be in every contract for the construction or sale of a dwelling by a Vendor to a Vendee in Minnesota.  The warranty provisions cannot be waived by any of the parties.  Under the warranty statute, Minnesota defines a dwelling as a new building not previously occupied and built for the purpose of habitation.  Vendor typically means the general contractor and not any subcontractors or material suppliers.  Vendee typically means the one buying the new home but also includes any subsequent purchasers within the warranty time period.

        Within one year of the warranty date, the warranty statute covers defects caused by faulty workmanship or defective materials due to noncompliance with the Minnesota Building Code.

        Within two years of the warranty date, the statute covers defects caused by faulty installation of plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling, again, due to failure to comply with the standards laid out by the Minnesota Building Code.

        Within ten years, the statute covers major construction defects.  Minnesota defines major construction defect as actual damage to the load-bearing portion of the dwelling, which includes damage to the subsidence (gradual sinking of an area of land), expansion or movement of the soil affecting load bearing function, also affecting use of the dwelling for residential purposes.

        In addition to new construction, the statute also covers home improvements.  The same warranty time periods discussed above apply to home improvements.  Generally speaking, depending on the scope of the home improvement, the statute covers workmanship and materials within one year, installation of plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems within two years, and major construction defects within ten years.

        If you have a claim under the Minnesota Warranty Statute, damages (money) are limited to the amount necessary to repair the defect or the difference between the dwelling without the defect and the value of the dwelling with the defect.  Typically, the cost of repair is the measure of damages.

         Minnesota also protects home owners against judgment proof contractors.  If you are in the unfortunate circumstances of having to assert a claim under the warranty statute the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry set up a contractor’s recovery fund that can pay money to a home owner that successfully obtains a judgment against a contractor that is unable to pay the amount of the judgment awarded.  Once you obtain a judgment, you can apply to the recovery fund and Minnesota may pay up to $75,000.00 depending on the facts of your claim.

        Any potential claims under the Home Warranty Statute must be brought within a certain amount of time from the date of discovering the defects.  If you are experiencing problems resulting from new construction or home improvements, it is always best to communicate directly with the builder you hired to attempt to resolve the issues.  However, if the builder and you are unable to resolve the problems, you can always consult with a construction law attorney to learn about your rights.  Other legal claims may be applicable to your particular situation.

         

        *This article does not constitute legal advice and is not intended to constitute advertising or solicitation for legal services. Nothing in this article should be construed by you as a source of legal advice. You should not rely or act upon the contents of this article without seeking advice from your own attorney.

         

        Navigating Property Line Disputes

          Working in Real Estate Law in beautiful Greater Minnesota with a proud reputation for simply being nice, I often wondered why a Real Estate attorney would ever be necessary to resolve boundary line disputes.  However, I quickly discovered that Greater Minnesota is inundated with confusing property lines, complex legal descriptions, and unclear boundaries. Many times the layout of the land is the true culprit to a property line dispute as opposed to neighbors not getting along.

          What is the most prudent course of action when a property line dispute arises with your neighbor?  If you are lucky and the circumstances are fitting, you may be able to resolve the dispute without having to hire an attorney.  The first recommended action may sound simple but is often disregarded: communicate with your neighbor.  For example, perhaps you have been struggling for the past year wondering why your neighbor mows five feet into your lawn.  In those circumstances, a simple neighborly conversation may resolve the confusion and encourage the neighbor to not encroach onto your lawn if it is a concern of yours.  However, what happens when the friendly conversation turns into a dispute over where exactly the property line is located?  Most of the time a survey can resolve such a dispute, but not when the survey reveals overlapping boundaries.  The discovery of overlapping boundaries is a situation that can ultimately lead to a bitter property line battle.

          If boundary lines overlap, both properties have title issues that must be resolved prior to any attempted sale or transfer of title.  If this situation is discovered, you should at least consult with a real estate attorney to learn all of your options in your particular situation.  Upon learning that your property line overlaps with your neighbors, you or your attorney should look at the legal description on your warranty deed and confirm with the surveyor that the practical boundary line is the same as the line described in your deed.  If it is, then compare the legal description to the one in your title insurance policy.  Your title insurance company may have to resolve the issue for you if it insured the line despite the overlap.

          If there is a general agreement as to the location of the property line, then you could share costs for a survey company to mark the new boundary and provide a legal description. Then, the neighbor and you could resolve the issue by exchanging quit claim deeds that fix the new boundary line.  That is likely the easiest, fastest, and cheapest resolution.  There are other options available, but generally speaking, if the neighbor and you cannot agree to exchange deeds, then a lawsuit may be necessary to determine the actual boundary line for your property (legalese: lawsuit causes of action typically involve practical location of a boundary and/or adverse possession).

          In the end, communication and treating your neighbor with respect will very likely save you from a devastating and expensive lawsuit as well as years of misery from not getting along with a neighbor.

          Are Trusts Only for the Wealthy?

            A Trust is oftentimes associated with wealth. The reason for this is that selecting the appropriate Trust based estate plan could save one’s estate from excessive death taxes. However, there are many more benefits to having a Trust.  Before identifying some of those benefits, it is helpful to know what a trust is and whether it is the same thing as a Will.

             In simple terms, a Trust is an agreement as to how your assets should be handled and eventually distributed.  A Trust is a powerful tool that gives the person creating the Trust complete control over his or her assets.  The most fundamental difference between a Will and a Trust is the potential avoidance of Probate Court.  While a Will is necessary and provides a clear set of instructions as to what to do with the estate, it still must pass through Probate Court.  A properly drafted and funded Trust avoids Probate Court.

            So what are some of the benefits of having a Trust that may apply to everyone? As mentioned, a trust avoids probate and potential public scrutiny.  If privacy is a concern of yours then you would want a trust based plan as opposed to a will based plan.  A trust is completely private and, unlike a probated will, a copy cannot be obtained at the Courthouse. There are typically no Court filings with a Trust plan.  A trust can also plan for disability.  In the event that you become disabled, the person you appoint as Trustee (the one taking care of your property) may exercise the powers given by you to take care of property owned by the trust.  In other words, a Trust can also avoid guardianship or conservatorship legal proceedings.  A trust makes it easy to place conditions on the distribution of any inheritance.  For example, rather than an heir receiving one lump sum of money, a trust could direct that your grandchildren receive a certain amount of money for educational purposes.  Finally, if you are a small business owner, a trust may make it easier to distribute ownership interests in that business.

            A trust can be a powerful document that offers enough flexibility to control and ultimately distribute your assets.  However, a trust is not by any means a cookie cutter form and can become very complex.  There are myriad types of trusts to meet your specific needs.  If you think a trust may be the right estate planning tool for you, you should discuss the option with your estate-planning attorney before setting one up.

            Can Owning Property in Other States Become a Problem?

              Many Minnesotans own a second property in Florida or Arizona.  How does title to that second home pass to loved ones after you die?  First, the good news: If you own the home in a joint tenancy with another person (most of the time a spouse), then that person would obtain title to the home without having to go through that state’s Probate Court.  If you transferred title to that home into a Revocable Living Trust, then the terms of the Trust would direct what happens to the home free from the Probate Court in that state.  However, what if a Trust does not own the property or you do not currently own the home in a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship?

              When you die the personal representative of your estate would be responsible for making sure the home goes to whomever you wanted it to go to according to your Will, if you had one.  If you reside in Minnesota, your personal representative will very likely go through the probate process in Minnesota.  Although there is nothing inherently wrong with probate, the process can make settlement of the estate and transferring property to your heirs more difficult.

              The Minnesota Probate Court has absolutely no jurisdiction over property in other states.  Therefore, to be able to transfer title on a second home located in another state, the personal representative of your estate would have to go through the probate process in the state where the second home is located (legal term “ancillary probate”) in addition to going through the probate process in Minnesota.  Going through the probate process in one state is expensive and difficult enough.  Add another probate filing in another state with different laws and procedures and the expenses can become enormous.

              If you own property in another state, you can easily avoid probate issues with a quality Estate Plan.  The surest way to protect your estate and surviving family members from these issues is by transferring title to all of your properties into a Revocable Living Trust.  By doing so, your estate avoids potential ancillary probate difficulties and likely saves a lot of money.  All property, including your second home in another state, gets passed as directed by the terms of your Trust. Such a Trust based Estate Plan could be set up entirely in Minnesota by a licensed attorney.  You do not need to set up one Trust to own the Florida home and another Trust to own your Minnesota home.  Moreover, once you establish a Living Trust, all of your other assets and properties may be owned by the same Trust.

               

              *This article does not constitute legal advice and is not intended to constitute advertising or solicitation for legal services. Nothing in this article should be construed by you as a source of legal advice. You should not rely or act upon the contents of this article without seeking advice from your own attorney.

              Don’t Play Lawyer

                Technology has made life and business simpler by its ease of use and accessibility. Banking, paying bills, business communications, and ability to quickly look up medical or legal facts are all made easier through technology. Many people see advertisements for online legal services and wonder if this could speed up or simplify their legal process. We live in the age of information and there is no shortage of websites online offering quick fixes for business forms and legal products.  But do you know what you are getting? A good estate plan (Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directive) is like insurance. Until the need arises, most people are unaware of exactly what their policy provides. Unfortunately, many will not know the quality of their “do it yourself” legal products, because the problems do not arise until after their death.

                One might be tempted by the allure of a product that comes with promises of quick, easy, and cheap legal work. It is enticing to avoid hiring a lawyer. But, one basic truth resonates: you get what you pay for. For example, each state has specific laws, and every family has its own unique composition and issues that need consideration in an estate plan. An online form is unable to accommodate these needs.

                In Minnesota, it is actually not difficult to execute a legally valid Will as there are three basic elements: (1) the Will must be typed, (2) the Will must be signed by the person making the Will, and (3) the Will must be notarized and signed by two witnesses present during the signing of the Will.  Any adult with a sound mind may make a Will, if the above requirements are met. A handwritten note, however, stating who gets what (holographic Will) is not valid in Minnesota.

                As an attorney, I have reviewed form processed Wills that have failed to meet even the aforementioned requirements.  However, even if the Will is legally valid by meeting the minimum requirements, drafting your own Will is risky because it is likely not to provide what you want it to provide.  Legalese is a different language than English. Even the finished product from an online form company will be formal and almost entirely legalese.  You may be taking a significant risk by assuming you understand a certain word or phrase.  In fact, Forbes recently reported that some have accidentally disinherited children by not understanding legal phrases and choosing the wrong language through online forms.  Drafting a Will with a licensed attorney can give you the peace of mind that you did not misapply legal words and phrases.  It is the job of an attorney to know those words and phrases and apply them appropriately.

                As an example, in our office, clients fill in the blanks of an estate planning document to give us an idea of what the client wants.  More often than not, clients unintentionally make mistakes in selecting language that would result in the opposite unintended result.  It is the attorney’s responsibility to choose the proper language that meets the needs of the client.

                If the mistakes are not discovered until the need arises, it is too late.  Ineffective legal documents usually results in expensive litigation. If you have an inadequate estate plan, the problems are passed onto loved ones and the Court to decipher your wishes. Before you consider doing it yourself entirely on your own or through the latest online legal services, at a minimum, speak with a licensed attorney to ensure that your intentions are properly understood and carried out in your estate plan.

                *** UPDATE ***

                Ohio High Court questions whether use of forms by non lawyers should be considered unauthorized practice of law.

                 

                *This article does not constitute legal advice and is not intended to constitute advertising or solicitation for legal services. Nothing in this article should be construed by you as a source of legal advice. You should not rely or act upon the contents of this article without seeking advice from your own attorney.

                What happens to my things if I die without a Will?

                  The short answer to this question is that you lose control and Minnesota determines what happens to the property that you left behind (your “Estate”).  In Minnesota, if you die without a Will your property will be divided and distributed to those family members that Minnesota indicates are legal family members and entitled to a share of your property (legal term is “Intestate Succession”).  With the dynamic nature of the modern family, you may not agree with the way Minnesota defines your family and distributes your property.

                  Your family arrangement may not fit within any of the examples below, and if so, the only way to guarantee that your family members receive what you want them to receive is through a Will.

                  If you are married and have no children previous to or outside of your marriage, your surviving spouse inherits your estate.  If you have children but never got married, your children inherit all property in your estate.  If you were never married and have no children, your parents inherit your estate.  If you have no spouse, children and your parents are not alive, surviving siblings inherit all of your estate in equal shares.  Those are some of the “easy” scenarios.  Where it becomes difficult is when you have children from a previous marriage or your spouse has children from a previous marriage.

                  If you are married at the time of death, Minnesota law generally dictates that the surviving spouse receives everything.  However, if you and your spouse had children apart from each other, then the surviving spouse would receive the first $150,000.00, plus one-half of the rest of the estate.  So, for example, if all of your property is worth less than $150,000.00, then your surviving spouse would receive everything and any children from a previous marriage would receive nothing. If your estate is worth more than $150,000.00, after the spouse receives his/her share, children from another relationship would inherit all that remains in the estate.

                  For children to inherit from you without a Will, they must be considered your children under Minnesota law.  Any children legally adopted are regarded the same as biological children.  If you have a stepchild that you have not adopted, that child will likely not receive a share of your estate.  If you gave a child up for adoption to another family, that child will not receive a share of your estate.  Grandchildren do not receive any of your property unless that grandchild’s parent did not survive you.  In that case, the grandchildren would receive equal disbursements of their parents share.

                  If no heirs are determined, the entire estate goes to the State of Minnesota.

                  That is just a snapshot of what happens to your estate if you die without a Will.  If you want control of what happens and do not want Minnesota to dictate what happens to your estate, then you should not neglect to have a legally valid Will drafted by a licensed attorney.

                   

                  *This article does not constitute legal advice and is not intended to constitute advertising or solicitation for legal services. Nothing in this article should be construed by you as a source of legal advice. You should not rely or act upon the contents of this article without seeking advice from your own attorney.

                  Land Ownership: Abstract of Title or Certificate of Title?

                    If you own land in Minnesota, land ownership is recorded in the County in which the real estate is located by either the County Recorder’s office through the Abstract system or the County Registrar of Titles through the Torrens system.  Most landowners, if asked whether they have an Abstract of Title or a Certificate of Title for their property, may not know one way or the other.  The Abstract system and the Registered Torrens system essentially serve the same purpose: to keep track of land ownership. Both systems are adequate in identifying ownership. Yet, there are significant differences between the two systems that impact the rights of a landowner.

                    The most common is the Abstract system. When an owner of Abstract property conveys title to property, mortgages, or does anything that affects title, a document is filed with the County Recorder. When Abstract property is sold, a title company will typically update the Abstract of Title, which is a record documenting the history of land ownership.  Abstracts account for the very first conveyance of the property, sometimes all the way back to the time when the United States government issued a land patent.  To the learned and professional eye, the Abstract should reveal any liens and encumbrances as well as ownership of the property.

                    The other less common form of keeping track of land ownership in Minnesota is called the Torrens system.  An Abstract of Title is not necessary in the Torrens system, and the land owner holds a Certificate of Title that simply lists the land owner and current encumbrances.So what’s the big deal?  Why should anyone care whether their land is Abstract or Torrens?

                    Under the statutory law in Minnesota, a land owner of Torrens property is assured that no one else has any claim to the property. The Certificate of Title is automatically deemed to be accurate and irrefutable. Again, rather than a confusing historical chronological listing of all property owners and mortgages which is often the case with an Abstract of Title, a Certificate of Title very simply lists the owner and liens or encumbrances known at the time of conveyance of title.  In that sense, Torrens title is similar to the title to a motor vehicle.

                    Once property is registered Torrens no one may gain adverse possession or prescriptive easement rights against the title.  With Abstract property, it is possible to lose title to your land due to a hostile takeover from a neighbor through adverse possession.  Adverse possession, also commonly known as “squatter’s rights”, is a legal remedy that, if certain legal standards are met, allows someone other than the owner to acquire title to the owner’s land.  In addition to the protections against adverse possession, Torrens property also shields your property from any claim of prescriptive easement rights.

                    Similar to adverse possession, under certain circumstances another person using your land could also obtain a prescriptive easement.  The main difference is that with adverse possession the record owner loses title whereas with a prescriptive easement the owner retains title to the land but it becomes burdened by the easement.  This is particularly important for lake properties.  For example, a neighbor claiming that he or she has continuously stored his or her dock on your property during the winter months for more than 15 years could be awarded prescriptive easement rights by the Court that run with the land (allowing future owners to continue such use of your property).  A prescriptive easement claim could prevail with Abstract property; on the other hand, such a claim could not be successfully made against Torrens property.

                    If there is any concern that a neighbor may attempt to acquire title or prescriptive easement rights to your land by simply using it, registering your land as Torrens is one preventative measure that may, at the same time, avoid a potential land dispute with your neighbor.

                     

                    *This article does not constitute legal advice and is not intended to constitute advertising or solicitation for legal services. Nothing in this article should be construed by you as a source of legal advice. You should not rely or act upon the contents of this article without seeking advice from your own attorney.

                    What is Probate Court and Why Should You Avoid It?

                      When a loved one passes, the last thing any person wants to think of is legal matters and attorneys.  Unfortunately, in the midst of the grieving process certain matters must be taken care of and the property of the deceased must be properly distributed.  If given the choice, most would prefer to handle these matters on their own, but it is often necessary to involve the Probate Court to receive permission from a Judge to transfer a decedent’s property.

                      Probate Court is a division of the Minnesota District Civil Court system that handles the legal process of settling an estate after a person has died.  Now, having to receive the blessing of the Court is not the end of the world by any means, but the process can take a lot of time, effort, and money.  It may or may not be necessary to involve the Court to handle the distribution of a person’s estate.  Generally speaking, whether probate is necessary depends on how assets are titled and held at the time of death and probate is often necessary when personal assets exceed $50,000.00 and real property is owned individually or as a common tenant by the deceased.

                      The probate process begins simply with the filing of a preliminary petition with the Court requesting that the Court appoint a Personal Representative to represent the decedent’s estate.    The Personal Representative’s duty, along with his or her attorney, is to take the laboring oar to collect all property owned by the decedent, create an inventory, obtain appraisals of assets, take measures to protect those assets, pay debts, and distribute the remaining assets to the proper beneficiaries as directed by the estate plan of decedent and by the law.  The Probate Court oversees the process and will issue an order authorizing what ultimately will happen to the property of the decedent.

                      Many factors can affect how long the probate process will take.   There may be intricate family arrangements to take into consideration, disputes between family members, and potential legal issues.  Some estates settle fairly quickly and others can drag on for years.  Also, depending on the situation, it is possible that Court fees and attorney bills can rapidly accumulate.  These costs will reduce the assets owned by the estate because the estate of the deceased must pay all fees before distribution of the remaining property.  So, again, most would prefer not to have to go through Probate Court because it takes a lot of time, effort, and money.

                      How can probate be avoided?  In my experience, the number one false assumption people seem to make is that if a person dies leaving a Will, then there is no need for probate.  However, a Will does not automatically remove the decedent’s estate from probate.  A Will is merely directions from the decedent as to what should happen with the property owned by the decedent.  Again, whether probate is necessary depends on how assets are titled at the time of death.

                      If your goal is to avoid probate, a quality estate plan put together by your attorney can save those surviving you from having to go through probate after your death.  Not only that, a good estate plan can prevent beneficiaries from losing a portion of their inheritance to creditors and to the attorney(s) settling the estate.  Some very basic things can be done to decrease the necessity of probate.  For example, if you are married and would like your home to pass to your spouse without involving the Court, make sure you and your spouse own title to the home as joint tenants (not as common tenants).  You could also name beneficiaries on life insurance policies and set up your financial accounts to be payable on death.

                      Regardless, do not neglect to put together an estate plan.  As the saying goes, the only things certain in life are death and taxes. Those surviving you will be thankful you have a well organized estate plan.  It will relieve them from the burden of settling your estate and your loved ones will be free to simply mourn your loss as they should.

                       

                      *This article does not constitute legal advice and is not intended to constitute advertising or solicitation for legal services. Nothing in this article should be construed by you as a source of legal advice. You should not rely or act upon the contents of this article without seeking advice from your own attorney.