The 3-step plan to avoid probate court in Minnesota

There are many reasons that people engage in estate planning. Often, testators' motivation is in their desire to control and protect their assets. Other times, they may have strong feelings about avoiding probate court or even reducing the tax burden on their heirs.

For those wishing to avoid probate court by carefully planning their estates in Minnesota, there are special steps to take. With a little extra care, it is possible to greatly reduce the stress and expense of probate court for your heirs.

Start estate planning early and commit to regular reviews

One of the most common reasons that heirs and beneficiaries bring challenges against an estate is the claim of diminished capacity. If there is reason to believe that you have already begun declining mentally at the time you create your estate plan or last will and testament, that can provide grounds for family members to contest it. The sooner you create a will, the better.

Similarly, mistakes in your last will, such as allocated assets intended for someone who is already dead, could help someone claim the will is invalid. Updating your last will is important whenever your family changes. Commit to reviewing your will at least once a year and anytime something major in your family changes.

Add a no-contest clause to your last will

No-contest clauses, also called "in terrorem" clauses, are intended to frighten your family members out of challenging your last will and estate plan. These clauses typically include a severe penalty for anyone who challenges your estate plan, up to full disinheritance.

While a bigger slice of the inheritance can motivate people to challenge the will, the threat of losing out on an inheritance entirely is usually enough to prevent that. The courts in Minnesota typically uphold no-contest clauses unless family members can show that they bring the contest in good faith or with probable cause.

Be honest about the contents of your will

Disappointment is one of the leading reasons why family members choose to challenge a will. Some may feel they should receive a larger portion of the family's assets. Other times, an heir you choose not to include may feel entitled to a share of the estate.

Being transparent with your heirs about your intentions to split your assets will prevent any sort of shock from leading to a challenge of your will. If you do choose to completely exclude or disinherit someone, be sure to include their name specifically in the will. This will prevent them from claiming to the courts that their omission from the will was simply an oversight.

By following these three rules when you create an estate plan, you drastically reduce the potential for someone to challenge your last will and legacy unnecessarily.

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