Many residents of Minnesota, especially those who read this blog, are probably familiar enough with estate planning to know that typically a person uses a will to pass on property to those whom he or she chooses. However, there are other mechanisms of estate planning available. Joint property, payable on death accounts, IRA's, insurance policies and trusts are all means by which a Minnesota resident can pass his or her bounty on to others.
However, some means of passing on wealth, particularly when it is done at the last minute, might not be best suited to ensuring a smooth transition of wealth. As a case in point, the friend of a deceased professor recently sued the professor's estate and personal representative. The professor and the man were long time friends, and the professor even left several articles of personal property to the man in his will.
What complicates things, however, is the fact that the professor did not mention anything in his will about leaving $100,000 to the man. However, the friend of the professor claims the professor wrote him a $100,000 check near the end of this life. While this indeed might have been an attempt on the part of the professor to leave money to his friend, the estate contests the signature on this check and has declined to honor it. Most of the professor's estate, valued at up to $1 million, will likely go to his former university.
One lesson Minnesota residents can take from this is if one absolutely needs to make some last-minute and quick estate planning, it is best that the intent of the planning is well-documented. Ideally, estate plans will be spelled out in a will or another pre-planned, clear and legally valid document. Yet, even when this happens, sometimes probate litigation is unavoidable. In such cases, it may be advisable to seek the advice of an experienced probate litigation attorney.
Source: Portland Press Herald, "Friend sues estate of UMaine professor," Betty Adams, Dec. 29, 2013