Estate Planning While at Home

The team at Mullen and Guttman, PLLC is dedicated to creating safe, flexible options for creating your estate plan. We’ve developed a 4-step, Covid-friendly planning process to help Minnesotans achieve their estate planning goals safely and efficiently.

Our simple, 4-step planning process:

Creating or updating your estate plan is a simple process you can begin from the safety of your home to protect your loved ones and gain some peace of mind. A properly designed estate plan gives your loved ones the tools they need to care for you if (and when) you need them to.

Call our team at (612) 756-7272 to schedule a free consultation and begin working on our estate plan today.

What to Do When a Loved One Passes

The time immediately following a loved one’s passing is never easy and can often be overwhelming. In addition to sorting through a variety of emotions, you may find yourself with an extensive list of confusing and draining responsibilities, so it’s important to stay in touch with family and friends for support and encouragement. If your loved one passes in the midst of shelter-in-place orders, connecting with family and friends virtually can help you through this difficult process.

Make sure to discern and honor the final wishes of your loved one. Final wishes may be included in an estate plan, but often are recorded separately. These include whether the deceased is an organ donor, whether they want to be cremated or buried, and other instructions for the funeral. Be sure to contact immediate family to clarify final wishes.

Arranging the Funeral

Once the family has been contacted, you can begin funeral preparations. Where possible, divide responsibilities among family members. If the deceased left no instructions, seek the advice of family members as you plan for the funeral. While keeping in mind the wishes of the deceased and family, follow these general guidelines:

  1. Set a clear budget. Costs can add up, with the average funeral coming in between $7,000-$15,000.
  2. Research funeral home options that align with your budget. Consult family or friends who have experience making funeral arrangements.
  3. Choose a funeral home.
  4. Meet with the funeral director and clearly communicate the plan for the funeral: embalming or cremation, open or closed casket, burial site, religious traditions, and any other details you’ve gathered from final wishes or family.
  5. Arrange for the headstone. You can do this through the cemetery or an outside vendor.
  6. Prepare an obituary. You can do this through the funeral home, write one yourself, or ask a family member.
  7. Spread the word. When a date and time are set for the service, prepare a list of well-wishers to invite. Note that during the current COVID-19 crisis funerals and memorial services are often being streamed online. Include an address to send flowers and donations in the invitation.

Tasks to Complete and Documents to Gather

After the funeral, you and your family will have further tasks to complete. These tasks may include:

  • Securing Real Estate: Make sure to secure any real estate owned by your loved one. This may include changing locks, forwarding mail, updating utility services, and updating homeowner’s and automobile insurance. You may need to make arrangements for lawn care and/or snow removal.
  • Contacting Family and Friends: Keep friends and family informed of funeral and memorial details.
  • Contacting Your Loved One’s Professionals: Locate information for your loved one’s attorney, accountant, and financial advisor.

Most of these tasks require some kind of documentation. Here are some of the documents to gather:

  • Death certificate: You may need up to a dozen copies for various tasks. You can work with the funeral director to do this, or contact the Minnesota Office of Vital Records.
  • Personal Documents: Birth certificate, marriage or divorce certificates, military discharge papers.
  • Financial Documents: Financial or retirement account records, IRS returns, property deeds, vehicle titles.
  • Insurance: Locate life insurance policy and contact company, stop health insurance and update other insurance policies as needed.
  • Will/Living Trust: Locate the will or living trust of the deceased.

The Probate Process

If your loved one created their will or living trust with a lawyer, locate the original documents. It is usually beneficial to speak with an estate planning attorney. Be sure to find a law firm with experience in estate planning and administration, and a reputation for compassion and empathy.

It may be difficult to begin a legal process shortly after a loved one’s death. However, if your loved one had a will, you may need to go through probate to carry out their wishes and distribute their assets. If they had a living trust, you likely won’t need to go through probate, but you can still get guidance from estate planning lawyers.

So, what is probate? Probate is the legal process of settling an estate after a loved one dies. The property of the deceased is gathered and inventoried, their debts are paid, and everything left is either distributed in accordance with the will or divided among their heirs.

It’s a common misconception that if the deceased has a will, their estate doesn’t have to go through probate. Though a will can name a personal representative to allow the probate process to go more smoothly, the estate will still have to go through probate. If the deceased doesn’t have a will, the probate court will appoint a personal representative.

Since each estate is unique, the probate process is slightly different in every situation. However, the process generally follows these steps:

  1. Gather information and documents, including will, death certificate, and asset information.
  2. Meet with a probate attorney to prepare probate application or petition.
  3. File the probate application or petition with the proper probate court to appoint a Personal Representative (sometimes referred to as Executor or Administrator) for the estate.
  4. Publish notice of the probate in the appropriate newspaper.
  5. Give notice to heirs and beneficiaries under the will or to statutory heirs (if no will exists).
  6. Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by the Personal Representative.
  7. Payment of estate debt to rightful creditors.
  8. Sale of estate assets.
  9. Payment of estate taxes, if applicable.
  10. Final distribution of assets to beneficiaries or heirs.

Probate typically takes between nine and twelve months, and can drag on much longer if someone contests the will, if there are disputes between the personal representative and alleged creditors, or if the estate is complex and enters formal probate proceedings.

How Does Probate Work During the COVID-19 Crisis?

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many legal processes, including probate. Currently, many hearings are being conducted by remote technology and certain fees and fines are delayed by 60 days. Since the coronavirus pandemic is a rapidly developing situation, it’s important to keep track of how the virus could impact your probate process by contacting your lawyer and checking the Minnesota Judicial Branch website.

How Mullen & Guttman’s Probate Attorneys Can Help You

The experienced Minnesota probate attorneys at Mullen & Guttman can assist you with your loved one’s living trust or will, and guide you through both the informal and formal probate processes. During the COVID-19 crisis, we are fully equipped to communicate with you by phone, Zoom, email, and mail, as well as conduct limited in-person meetings that observe social distancing and other appropriate safety precautions.

Even when the estate being administered appears to be straightforward, unexpected roadblocks can slow down the process. The experienced and compassionate Minnesota probate attorneys at Mullen & Guttman have helped many families through the probate process. We can assist you through each step of probate, from filing an application to distributing assets, as well as assist with the administration of a living trust and updating the estate plan for a surviving spouse or beneficiary.

Contact the probate lawyers at Mullen & Guttman to start your probate process today.

Estate Planning in Minnesota During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread uncertainty in nearly every area of our lives. While it is perfectly natural to have some anxiety during this crisis, the new challenges we are facing also represent positive opportunities. You have the chance to turn feelings of uncertainty into peace of mind by creating or updating your estate plan to protect your loved ones and legacy.

Office file folder labeled 'Estate Plan'

Establishing an estate plan is important. If you don’t make the proper legal arrangements before your passing or incapacity, the state’s intestacy laws will take over, possibly resulting in the wrong people getting your assets, higher estate taxes, and a difficult court process for your family. With a strong estate plan, you can protect your loved ones from these issues both during and after the coronavirus crisis.

Estate Planning While at Home

Most of us in Minnesota are spending the majority of our time at home in the midst of shelter-in-place orders and safety concerns. While working remotely, you have probably glanced at the items on your to-do list that you are normally too busy to address. If estate planning is an item you have been putting off, or neglecting to add to your list, now is the perfect time to contact an estate planning lawyer and start securing your future.

Fortunately, most of the initial work needed to create an estate plan can be done remotely. The estate planning attorneys at Mullen & Guttman are fully equipped to provide services over the phone or through video conferencing. We can advise you throughout the process, and utilize phone, video, mail and limited socially distant meetings to coordinate the creation and execution of your estate plan. Although some states are expanding online signing options during the crisis, Minnesota currently still requires certain estate planning documents to be signed in person. However, it’s still a great time to take action and start the process of estate planning at home.

Involving Your Family in Estate Planning

Estate planning affects your entire family, and the current crisis offers an opportunity to communicate easily with family members and close friends. You may be quarantined with family, or simply have more time to have conversations virtually.

Take advantage of this unique situation to have personal discussions with the family and friends you would like to take care of you upon incapacity and to settle your estate when you pass. Being on the same page with your family members or trusted friends will allow you to have more productive discussions with an estate lawyer and get your estate plan off to a strong start.

Getting Started on an Estate Plan

The logical starting point in estate planning is either a will or a Living Trust. Wills give direction for the transferring of your assets, name guardians for your children, may establish trusts upon death, and more, through a court process called probate. A will may be a vital document in the estate planning process, protecting your family from uncertainty both now and in the future.

A Living Trust, sometimes referred to as a Revocable Living Trust, is another estate planning strategy that gives direction for controlling your assets upon incapacity and death. A major benefit of a Living Trust is that it can achieve many of the benefits of a will, typically without the need for the court’s involvement.

You’ll also want to plan for the possibility of you becoming incapacitated. Mullen & Guttman can help you set up a financial power of attorney and health care directive to manage your affairs in the event of incapacitation. A health care directive informs others of your preferred medical treatments should you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill.

These can all be challenging steps to take, even if events like the current crisis are motivating you to make difficult decisions. The estate planning lawyers at Mullen & Guttman have helped thousands of people through their estate plans, and will be there every step of the way to answer your questions and guide you through the process.

Secure Peace of Mind Working with Mullen & Guttman

Many people understandably put off estate planning while trying to make difficult personal and financial decisions. However, the ongoing coronavirus crisis offers a fantastic opportunity to make these decisions to the best of your ability and get started on an estate plan. Changes can always be made in the future, and you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that you’re protecting yourself and your loved ones in this uncertain time.

If you’re ready to cross an estate plan off your list, contact our Minneapolis-based estate planning attorneys today.

Additional Time to File and Pay Minnesota 2019 Individual Income Tax

The Minnesota Department of Revenue has announced an extension to the Minnesota Individual Income Tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020, granting an additional three months to file and make payments without penalty.

This update follows the federal government’s announcement that the IRS has moved the national income tax filing date forward to July 15, 2020.

“Extending the individual tax filing deadline will provide much-needed relief to Minnesotans impacted by COVID-19,” said Governor Tim Walz. “As we work together to combat the spread of this virus, my Administration will do everything we can to ease the burden on families across the state.”

Click here to read the full announcement from the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

Mullen & Guttman, PLLC – COVID-19 Protocol

We are here to help! With those who need us in mind, we’ve made it easier and safer. 

The estate planning attorneys at Mullen & Guttman are fully equipped to provide services over the phone or through video conferencing. We can advise you throughout the process, and utilize phone, video, mail and limited socially distant meetings to coordinate the creation and execution of your estate plan. Although some states are expanding online signing options during the crisis, Minnesota currently still requires certain estate planning documents to be signed in person. However, it’s still a great time to take action and start the process of estate planning at home.

The well-being of our clients and staff is always top of mind for us at Mullen & Guttman, PLLC. With concerns about the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we and the co-occupants of our building are taking steps to help protect the health and safety of our clients and personnel, while continuing to provide you the best possible service for your essential needs, including the following:

  • In-person meetings have been reduced to just one-on-one client meetings necessary to advance the essential legal needs of our clients
  • We are strictly observing all social distancing protocols
  • We have emphasized routine best practices (frequent hand washing, social distancing, coughing into elbow, no face touching) and have increased the availability of hand sanitizer in our office
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures have been put in place and surfaces/ touch points are wiped down multiple times per day
  • Only a couple other staff members who are serving essential functions (and are symptom-free) are present in our office, all others are working from home

As we are sure you will understand, please do not be offended if we greet you from a safe distance and do not greet you with the usual warm handshake while you are meeting with us.

If you have questions or concerns about planning for your estate during this difficult time, please reach out to our team at (612) 756-7272.