Frequently Asked Questions

Estate Planning

  1. What is the purpose of a Will?  A Will is a written document that directs what happens to an individual's property when they die.    
  2. Do I need a Will?  Maybe not if an individual has no probate assets and no desire to bequest specific items of personal property.  
  3. What is a living trust?  A living trust is created by a grantor for the benefit of designated beneficiaries in accordance with a trust instrument and Minnesota law.  The trust instrument typically names the grantor as trustee with successor trustees appointed upon the grantor's death or disability.  The trustee has a fiduciary responsibility to manage and distribute the trust assets in accordance with the trust instrument.    
  4. How does a living trust avoid probate?  In creating a living trust, the grantor "funds" the trust by transferring assets into the trust through outright ownership or naming the trust as beneficiary.  Because the grantor doesn't personally own this property, probate is not required to transfer ownership to other individuals upon the grantor's death.      
  5. What is a power-of-attorney?  A power-of-attorney is a document whereby one person, as principal, appoints another person as agent and grants authority to perform certain acts on behalf of the principal.  The agent's power to act is revoked upon the principal's death.
  6. What is a health care directive?  A health care directive allows an individual to make health care related decisions when the individual in unable to decide or speak for themselves.  One critical aspect of any health care directive is the health care agent's authority to determine where the individual lives.         



  1. What is probate?  Probate is the legal process in which the estate of a deceased individual is administered.
  2. Does a Will prevent the need for probate?  No.  Probate is necessary when a person dies owning probate assets.  Probate assets are those assets that require the authority of a probate court to transfer title to the asset.  An example is a residence where title is held in the deceased individual's name alone.
  3. Can probate be avoided?  Yes.  Probate can be generally avoided when the deceased individual's estate is comprised of non-probate assets.  Non-probate assets do not require a probate court to transfer title and include: financial accounts or life insurance policies with a named beneficiary, living trusts, transfer on death deeds or multiparty accounts.