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KeyMaintaining passwords is an evolving game. Experts recommend that you keep different passwords for each online account, all with at least 8 characters comprised of uppercase, lowercase and at least one number/symbol. Personally, this is too much for me to keep track of and so I use a password manager.

Many of you may be familiar with password managers. In general, the password manager software will require one master password to access the application and then within the app you can enter all of your online accounts and corresponding password.  Some applications are stored locally on your computer while others are web-based applications with browser plug-ins that sync across devices.

I trust my current software application but it is not web-based and it does not allow me to share my password data with a trusted friend in the event I am incapacitated or upon my death. So, I plan to test three web-based password managers in the next few months:,, I’ll keep you updated on the pros and cons of each. In the meantime, let me know if you have a system for securely storing and sharing passwords.

Note:  The information in this post is not an endorsement of any of the products or websites listed.







Last will and testament document - iStockMinnesota is a pretty amazing state. We have great parks, great educational and business opportunities, great health care, and — let’s face it, — we’re ridiculously good looking.[1] But for all its up-sides, those perks come with a cost. First, Minnesota can be an expensive place. Also, it gets cold.

So it’s no surprise that our snow-bird population will frequently ask whether a will that was drafted in another state can be used in Minnesota, should it be needed. The answer, in short: usually. But that is not necessarily a good thing.

Probate is the court proceeding in which the property of a person who has died is identified and disbursed to heirs and creditors. This process is governed by state — not federal — laws. In Minnesota a will may generally be admitted to probate if the will was valid in the state in which it was drafted. This means that if you had a will drafted and properly executed (signed, witnessed, etc.) in Arizona according to Arizona law, it will generally be considered valid in Minnesota, and will be accepted by the probate court.

This can cause a lot of confusion. For example, Minnesota does not recognize holographic wills. A holographic will is a will that a person has written but which was not properly witnessed or signed according to Minnesota law. There are some states that will allow this type of will to be admitted to probate. A Minnesota court will theoretically allow this type of will if it would have been allowed in the state in which it was written, even though it is not valid under Minnesota law. This can be confusing for family members, attorneys, and court administrators alike. Having a holographic will in this case may be more trouble than it is worth, and you’ll likely want to have an estate plan that is designed around the laws of the state in which you live.

Estate planning concerns go well-beyond the validity of a will, of course. A common misconception about wills is that they somehow skip the probate process. This is absolutely untrue . . . when a probate is needed, the will governs the process. Additional planning is required if skipping probate is a goal, and it should be noted that holding certain assets in other states, such as real estate, may cause there to be a probate proceeding in every state where real estate was owned by the person who has died. This generally means the will must be valid in each of these states if your wishes are to be honored.

Importantly, estate planning involves many laws that are state-specific. This of course includes probate, but also real estate, property, and tax laws. There are many situations where this comes into play, but a particularly noteworthy one is Minnesota’s estate tax. A will drafted in Florida for a Florida resident will likely not take Minnesota’s estate tax into account, making this planning document less-than-ideal if that person were to have a Minnesota probate.

A will drafted in Minnesota by a Minnesota estate planning attorney will be written with Minnesota’s laws and best practices in mind. A one-size-fits-all will plan may not be ideal when it comes time for probate, and may make the process more complicated (and expensive) for surviving family members. Contacting an attorney who specializes in estate planning is the first step in making sure you have a proper Minnesota estate plan.

[1] We put even Derek Zoolander to shame.


Asset Definition - iStockIn August 2014, I posted an article about Robin Williams’ estate plan.  Now, 13 months after his death more details have been revealed regarding his estate plan and unfortunately, the court battles have begun.

So the good news.  Robin did have an estate plan; an updated estate plan to boot.  He was married in 2011, had a prenuptial agreement, and the trust (“Susan Trust”) that he set up for his wife Susan, was nearly identical to what was set forth in the prenuptial agreement.  Robin wanted Susan to live in their house in Tiburon for the rest of her life, expense free.  However, the other trust was for the benefit of his three children.  His trust detailed that he wanted all of his “clothing, jewelry, personal photos taken prior to his marriage to Susan,” as well as his “memorabilia and awards in the entertainment industry and the tangible personal property located” in the Napa Valley property to pass to his three children. Robin was also very specific as to who he wanted to act as his trustees – both his estate planning attorney and his accountant, two people that Robin had known for years.

So what is the problem?  A short 5 months after his death, Robin’s wife filed court documents challenging some of the provisions in his trusts and refused to let the trustees into the Tiburon property.  Even though Robin was quite specific, especially regarding the discretion afforded to his trustees, Susan decided to bring this matter into the public eye and ask for the Court to decipher the language.  Susan is asking for the court to give meaning to words like “memorabilia” and “jewelry,” as she argues the words are not very specific.  Susan is arguing “jewelry” and personal property should not include Robin’s watches or his expensive bicycles.  The children disagree.  The parties have appeared in Court on at least two occasions and the Judge is declining to intervene, as of now.  The Judge has ordered both sides to participate in mediation and to attempt to resolve these issues amongst themselves.

Moreover, Susan also asked the Court to determine how the expenses for her Tiburon home would be paid and how the trust fund would be set up.  On both issues, the Court has asked for additional information to be disclosed by September 9, 2015.  Hopefully with a couple good rounds of mediation and more information, both sides can allow the trustees to utilize their discretion and abide by Robin Williams’ wishes.

So lesson learned: estate planning is necessary, but without specificity, it can unravel all plans and leave the beneficiaries back at square one.





The Expert Institute’s Best Legal Blog Competition

by Jayne Sykora September 8, 2015 Uncategorized

Epilawg is in the running for The Expert Institute’s Best Legal Blog Competition! The competition will run from August 27th until the close of voting at 12:00 AM on October 9th, at which point the votes will be […]

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Drafting Considerations from a Corporate Trustee

by Robyn Ingber August 27, 2015 Uncategorized

As a Relationship Manager for a corporate fiduciary, I am often asked by my peers in the estate planning community about typical problem areas to keep in mind when drafting a trust document. Here are […]

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Delegation of Powers by Parent or Guardian

by Anna Lima August 20, 2015 Uncategorized

Parents, legal custodians, or legal guardians periodically find themselves in a position that necessitates granting power to another adult regarding the care, custody, or property of a minor child or incapacitated person (ward). Examples may […]

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Pros & Cons of Joint Tenancy

by Emma Maddy August 11, 2015 Estate Planning 101

A comprehensive estate plan deals with multiple types of property; from probate assets that pass through your will, to non-probate assets that pass outside a will via a trust or beneficiary designation, to jointly held […]

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Succession Planning for Your Company and Your Retirement

by Aaron Hall August 6, 2015 Business

You have built a successful company. Now you are starting to think about the potential for retirement. Retiring is a bit more complicated when you own the company. Your reputation, core values, personality, and relationships […]

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MN Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act

by Jennifer Santini July 30, 2015 Business

Minnesota’s Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act (“new LLC Act”) act will take effect this Saturday, August 1, 2015. Any limited liability companies (LLCs) that are newly organized in Minnesota after that date will be […]

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The Bank of Mom and Dad: A Guide to Intra-Family Loans

by Diana Ringuette July 27, 2015 Guest Articles

We’ve all heard jokes about taking a loan from the Bank of Mom and Dad. What you might not know is that intra-family loans can be a great way to transfer significant wealth and avoid […]

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Carrier Errors: The Importance of Life Insurance Policy Review

by Bob Cohen July 23, 2015 Guest Articles

In a previous post, I discussed the importance of having a life insurance policy analysis done on a regular basis. I was recently reminded of the importance of policy reviews when I received correspondence from […]

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