March 16, 2018

Demystifying Estate Planning

November 7, 2013

As an attorney, one of the first questions I usually hear is, “What type of law do you practice?” Often the answer “estate planning” leaves blank stares from those who asked. But it is not nearly as complicated as the people behind those blank stares think.

Estate planning is simply wills and trusts. It is a means to provide for a person’s friends and family, or even important organizations, after they pass away. A number of myths have arisen from the term “estate planning,” and it is worth debunking a few.

  1. Estate planning is for the rich. I often hear, “I don’t need any estate planning, I don’t have anything anyway.” Even if you aren’t of a certain tax bracket, estate planning gives you the means to provide for your family or a favorite charity, regardless of the amount of money involved. Without an estate plan, Minnesota statutes have pigeon holed how a person’s assets are to be divided, and these may not follow your wishes.
  2. Estate planning is for the elderly. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about estate planning for college students. This points out that an estate plan allows you to choose which people will make important decisions for you if you’re unable to do so yourself. These include when or how to pay your mortgage or whether a surgery is the right choice. Without an estate plan naming these agents, if a college student suffers a medical trauma and cannot make financial or healthcare decisions, a parent may not be able to step in or may face backlash from other family members.
  3. You can do your own estate plan online. An estate plan is a legal document with legal requirements. While programs exist to complete an estate plan on your own, this is like exploring the Amazon without a guide. This is not simply a self-serving statement by an estate planning attorney; a software program does not provide any advice. This leaves you floundering, trying to decide which course is best. Estate planning attorneys have seen the problems that can arise. Computer programs simply fill in the blanks. Further, these programs do not always advise as to statutory requirements, such as witnesses and a notary.

As you can see, a number of myths have arisen regarding estate planning. I hope this article helps to debunk a few of those, and shows you that yes, estate planning is for everyone.

If you have any questions about your estate plan, please do not hesitate to contact Segal Duffek Moen at (952) 358-7400 or