Estate Planning, Collaborative Family Law & Mediation

Common Questions About Wills (Part 3)

Can my personal representative handle my affairs if I become to sick to do so myself?

No.  A Will takes effect only after your death. If you want someone to handle your affairs if you become disabled or incompetent, you should talk with us about a number of options, including a health care directive.

What is a “living Will”?

In 1998, Minnesota law authorized the use of health care directives, which allows you to appoint a health care agent to make health care decisions when you become unable or unwilling to make or communicate such decisions, and to give instructions as to what choices you prefer. The health care directives law combined and replaced what was previously called a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. A health care directive can outline and describe your preferences about issues such as surgery, nursing home or specialized care, medication, religious concerns, funeral planning, organ donation and the types of life-sustaining procedures you may want or not want for yourself.

How much does it cost to probate an estate?

The cost of probate depends on the specifics of the situation involved. Generally, the expenses of settling an estate include the cost of a funeral, cremation or other ceremony, copies of the death certificate, attorney fees, accounting services, real estate transfer fees, court fees, notices to potential creditors and heirs, and personal representative fees. All of these expenses are paid from the assets of the estate before anything is distributed to the heirs.

What about taxes?

You may have heard about “death taxes” or taxes that an estate must pay from available property. Most estates do not have to pay federal or state “death taxes” because the property of the estate is not greater than the amount required for taxes. Nevertheless, if you have substantial assets, there may be substantial income tax consequences associated with your death. After death, little can be done to relieve an estate from adverse tax consequences caused by the lack of a Will, a trust or a proper estate plan. An important purpose of a Will can be to reduce the taxes that will have to be paid at your death and at the death of one or more of the beneficiaries of your Will. You  should discuss your options with a lawyer if taxes are a concern for you.

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