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St. Paul Minnesota Probate And Estate Litigation Law Blog

Can you leave your spouse out of your will?

In Minnesota, there can be estate situations in which a person wants to leave their spouse out of their will or other uncommon events. When this occurs, it is important that estate documents are drawn up correctly or there can be many complications among heirs.

Although it is uncommon, there are situations in which a person would want to disinherit their spouse. Disinheriting a spouse is not always because the spouses do not get along, but can be for financial reasons as well. A person may feel like their spouse has enough assets in their own name and a person would rather give the assets to other people. Or, a person wants to avoid an influx of estate taxes that could happen if their spouse's estate gets too large.

Siblings excluded from will may pursue estate litigation

Many Minnesota residents have taken the time to create a will that passes their assets to their family members. Most of the time, the assets are distributed evenly among siblings, but occasionally a person distributes their assets in a different way. If siblings do not receive an equal portion of the assets, an estate may face a legal challenge.

When siblings do not receive an equal portion of their parent's will, especially if it's unexpected, they can feel like something happened that shouldn't have with their parent's estate. A sibling can feel like it's unfair that they didn't receive something they were expecting. In this situation, siblings may find that they need to challenge the will.

Can you revoke a power of attorney?

Many Minnesota residents have taken the time to designate a power of attorney. But sometimes a person has the need to revoke a power of attorney. There are a few different ways a person can change or remove a designated power of attorney.

There are a few ways a power of attorney can be removed. First, there can be a date and time specified on a power of attorney. There are certain circumstances where a termination date is listed for a power of attorney that would void the document. The second way a power of attorney ends is if the principal dies. The third way a power of attorney can end is with written revocation. The principal needs to issue the written revocation and the power of attorney has to have actual knowledge of the revocation.

Family member disagreements about administration of a trust

Even when a Minnesota resident puts in a lot of thought, time and careful planning into their estate plan, something can still go wrong. Family members sometimes do not agree on certain aspects of a trust. There can be sibling rivalries, second marriages, and problems with in-laws that are unexpected and cause a trust dispute.

When there are disagreements surrounding a trust, it can be an emotionally stressful time for a family. There are several reasons why a trust can be disputed. One is that a person alleges that a trustee did not manage the trust properly. Or there can be disagreements among the trustees as to how the trust should be administered. Another common dispute is between beneficiaries and what they are receiving from the trust. Or a person may challenge whether the person who created the trust was competent at the time or if there was undue influence in creating the trust. Beneficiaries may also want enforcement of a trustee responsibility, including accounting of the trust.

Common reasons why an estate may wind up as a probate dispute

Even when a Minnesota resident plans his estate, problems may arise after their death. There are many reasons why an estate can run into a probate dispute and these often can lead to family distress.

Unfortunately, some Minnesota estates are not easily settled. There can be a dispute that arises after a person passes away. There are many reasons why an estate dispute can emerge. One is that there is a will contest among an heir. A will may not meet certain requirements, or more than one copy of a will exists. Undue influence is another reason why an estate dispute can occur. An heir can claim that the decedent was influenced by another person when they created their will or trust. Competence is another area for a probate dispute. A person can claim the decedent wasn't mentally competent when they created their will. A breach of fiduciary duty can be argued if a family believes an executor did not carry out their duty in the best interest of the beneficiaries. And finally, beneficiaries may argue that the assets are not being distributed in the way that the decedent intended.

Stan Lee's estate may become a battlefield

Stan Lee, the legendary Marvel comics creator, died recently, leaving behind a large estate. Minnesota residents who have lost a loved one, know how difficult settling an estate can be. Many times, families wind up in disagreements over how to distribute the estate, pay creditors, etc. Stan Lee's estate looks like it may be headed for a heated battle among his heirs.

Stan Lee, who died recently, left behind an estate that is worth $50 to $80 million. Mr. Lee is survived by one daughter and a brother. Mr. Lee signed a declaration in February 2018 saying that his daughter overspent using his money throughout her life. He said that he and his wife gave her money, but she was always demanding more. His declaration said that they often engaged in arguments over money with some of them being physical. His daughter has been excluded from any fiduciary duty over his estate. It is not yet known who will benefit from his estate and how contentious the distribution will be. But, judging from past arguments over his assets, claims of undue influence, reports of elder abuse and other family disagreements, it will probably be a long process.

Family conflict biggest threat to estate


Many Minnesota families understand the emotional trauma of a family conflict over a loved one's estate. No matter how well someone plans their estate, they cannot plan for an unexpected family squabble over it. An inheritance dispute can happen to any family and in these circumstances, hiring an attorney may be a good idea.

Estate planning professionals agree that one of the biggest threats to estate planning is family conflict. There are many situations in which family conflicts can occur in these times. There is an increase in divorce, blended families, children from multiple partners and situations in which one spouse is decades younger than the other. According to Ameriprise Financial, there are three factors that lead to inheritance issues. One is that heirs may have realistic expectations as to what they are going to receive in their inheritance. An heir may think they are going to receive much more than they really do which can lead to an estate dispute. Another factor that may arise with an estate is that there is lack of communication among heirs. Heirs report that they didn't know what they were going to receive which leads to confusion. The third factor that can arise is family drama surrounding the estate.

What rights do beneficiaries have?


When a person has been named a beneficiary of a loved one's estate in Minnesota, it is often viewed as a special gift. Most of the time, disbursements of assets to beneficiaries occur without incidence, but sometimes beneficiaries may wonder if they have any rights. Executors of an estate do have certain obligations to its beneficiaries.

A beneficiary should expect that they will be provided with information. The information usually includes enough information to enforce their rights. It can include what assets the estate holds, how much debt the estate contains and what assets are being sold to pay that debt. A beneficiary should also expect they will receive timely distribution from the estate. Beneficiaries also have the right to dismiss and replace the executor. There are grounds that need to be met for a dismissal that may include theft, inability to manage the estate or breach of fiduciary duties.

Substance abuse can affect a person's estate


Despite how hard families may try, no Minnesota family is perfect. This can make for difficult estate planning for families who have issues in their family. Most parents want to give their children equal share of their estate, but when substance abuse is present it can lead to complications and probate litigation.

Having a child with a substance abuse is a heartbreaking situation for families. When it comes to estate planning, alcohol or drug abuse can cause problems. If a family makes the decision to not give the substance abuser any part of their estate, it can result in a will contest. Another problem that can occur is if parents leave the substance abuser's share of the estate to another sibling to disperse. This can also lead to many problems that may include creditor's taking the money that's designated for the substance abuser child to a divorce affecting the disbursement.

James Brown's estate still not settled 12 years after his death


When a person dies it can be an emotional time for a family. Many people have taken the time to create an estate plan to help establish where their assets will go after they pass. But sometimes things don't go as planned and a will or trust is contested. Or a person dies without an estate plan and a family has disagreements as to what should happen to the assets. Legal disputes are still occurring for the estate of musician James Brown over 12 years after his death.

Soul musician, James Brown, passed away on Christmas Day in 2006, leaving behind millions of dollars in assets and a prolific music catalog. His family is still disputing his estate. One of the main disputes is whether Mr. Brown had a surviving spouse at the time of his death. He had married Tomi Rae Hynie in 2001, but she may have still been married at the time to another man. If this is the case, her marriage to Mr. Brown is not legal under South Carolina law. But, the man she may have been married to also appears to have been married to three other women in Pakistan, although this has not been proven. Because of the validity of the marriage to Mr. Brown, his estate is still in limbo. In addition, his will was written before his marriage to Hynie and does not include her. She has claimed an elective share of 1/3 of his estate. His children and grandchildren are disputing her claims and any settlement that includes her. The South Carolina Court of Appeals has found her to be the valid spouse but it is expected that the heirs will take this to the South Carolina Supreme Court. In addition, some of his children dispute the paternity of James Brown II and whether he really is the son of James Brown. The heirs of his estate are also in court in California over who will have control over his vast music catalog.

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