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Lake Elmo Minnesota Legal Blog

Why an estate plan might need an update

Minnesota residents who have not looked over their estate plan for a few years should do so. Estate plans should be reviewed about every three years, but there are also certain situations that should require a review even if less time has passed.

For example, an estate plan needs to be reviewed after a person moves to a new state because of the potential for changes in state law that could affect it. Furthermore, people should also make sure they have taken sufficient steps to establish residency in the new state. Families may go through changes such as deaths, births, divorces and marriages, and these could also mean the estate plan needs a revision. People's assets or liabilities may change over the years as well. They may acquire or sell an asset, and the estate plan may need to reflect that change.

Managing divorce issues with children during the holidays

The end of a marriage can be a challenge for Minnesota couples with children during any time of the year. The stress that sometimes goes along with post-divorce co-parenting can be even greater during the holiday season, especially with the increased shuffling of kids back and forth between homes. This increased contact also boosts the odds for unexpected dilemmas and conflicts. Having a clear playbook for dealing with divorce during the holidays when children are involved may make things easier for everyone.

Holiday-related issues can be even more impactful for newly separated families adjusting to different dynamics for the first time, although long-time divorced parents can be equally affected. Regardless of the recentness of a divorce, people are encouraged to focus on what's best for their children by putting aside lingering feelings of anger and resentment. If this is difficult, individuals may benefit from support from friends, other adult family members or a therapist. Taking such steps may reduce the risk of parents letting personal animosity interfere with decisions about how their children spend the holidays.

Renowned artist's death puts spotlight on estate planning

While many people in Minnesota may be fans of Stan Lee's comic book art and creative work, they may not want to emulate his estate planning choices. The 95-year-old man passed away in November 2018, survived by his 68-year-old daughter. In 2017, his wife of 70 years passed away, and earlier in the year, he reported that $1.4 million was missing from his savings. Lee has also admitted that he had untrustworthy financial planners early in his career.

One challenge may be that when seniors most urgently need an estate plan, they are often less able to create one. People at very advanced ages may begin to suffer from cognitive decline, sometimes to the extent that it can lessen their abilities to make informed and clear choices. This can leave estate planners vulnerable to fraud and abuse, but it can also lead them to distrust close friends and family with no ill intentions. These situations can highlight the importance of moving forward with an estate plan at a younger age.

Are there alternatives to jail in Washington County?

Facing a criminal charge can be scary enough, but facing jail time can be even scarier. If you have been charged with a crime in Washington County, however, you may be eligible for a jail alternative, such as a diversion program. Many Minnesota counties have programs to help divert low-level offenders from serving jail or prison time. The following programs might apply to your situation:

Reasons and procedures for temporary custody

Temporary custody may be granted in cases in Minnesota when parents are going through a divorce. However, the orders that are initially put in place as temporary custody orders may become permanent once the divorce is final. A court attempts to make a decision regarding custody based on the best interests of the child.

Temporary custody orders might also be put in place if a parent is temporarily incapacitated, such as through hospitalization, or if a parent is accused of abusing the child. A parent who is unable to care for a child financially might grant temporary custody to a relative. There might be other situations in which a parent is unable to take care of a child for a time, such as an absence caused by work responsibilities. Temporary custody could be granted to a grandparent or a godparent, friends or other family members.

Following up to implement an estate plan

Many people in Minnesota work hard to draw up their estate plans. They think long about the way they want to divide their assets and work with lawyers to draft, complete and execute the necessary documents. Still, even after signing off on wills, trusts and powers of attorney, there are some important follow-up steps that estate owners can take to make sure their plans are protected.

One of the most important steps toward making sure an estate is correctly organized is to update and verify the beneficiaries of transfer-on-death accounts like life insurance policies and retirement funds. These assets are transferred directly, without going through probate. In many cases, they can be some of the more valuable assets in an estate, and the overall estate plan can hinge on their correct transfer. Therefore, leaving old beneficiaries in place can be a disaster for the plan as a whole and can even have negative tax consequences. The account owner will need to contact the insurance company or account manager to make sure that the beneficiaries are accurate and up to date.

Tax changes divorcing couples should know about

For some Minnesota couples who are ending their marriages, changes mandated by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which passed in late 2017, will mean less money for them after the divorce. The TCJA changed how parents can take exemptions for children on their taxes and how alimony is affected by the new law.

There is a significant increase in the head of household deduction, and this can be taken by a single parent who has the child in the home more than 50 percent of the time and who pays over half of household expenses. There is also a child tax credit that the HOH parent can take. In the past, parents could alternate claiming the child tax deduction, but it is unclear whether this will be the case for the child tax credit. Parents may include a provision stating that this will be tradable if IRS regulations allow it.

How health problems may get worse after divorce

"Gray divorce" is a term often used for marriage separations among the 50-and-older age group. According to national statistics, more and more Minnesotans are going through gray divorces. It's important to note that many older ex-spouses face added challenges such as health issues, social isolation and financial problems.

Divorce can cause anxiety and depression even among the more harmonious exes. In bad situations, one may also suffer from insomnia, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and a weakened immune system. Many health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, can worsen under chronic stress. Depression and other psychological disorders may also lead to a more sedentary lifestyle and risky behaviors, including drinking too much and overeating.

Beyond Nurse Jackie: Twin City nurses and addiction

Many of us are aware of the Netflix series Nurse Jackie starring Edie Falco. The series, a medical comedy-drama, chronicles the life of superstar, but pain-killer addicted nurse Jackie Peyton. The series ran from 2009 to 2015. But what we may not be aware of is that high numbers of our Twin City nurses struggle with pain killer and alcohol addiction. 

Staggering statistics

Estate planning for young Minnesota residents

Estate planning is rarely a high priority for young people in Minnesota and around the country, and studies reveal that three in four American millennials have not drafted a last will and testament. This can be a delicate subject even for those who expect to live for several more decades, but financial experts say that there are good reasons for even young adults to put at least a rudimentary estate plan into place.

In addition to providing clear instructions for how an individual's assets should be distributed after they pass away, a last will and testament also names an executor to manage their estates and administer distributions. When no will has been written, the estates of deceased persons are administered by states according to established rules that may not always align with their wishes. Even when estates are simple and assets are few, writing a will can streamline the process and avoid bitter disputes among heirs.

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