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Awhile back, anFinances - iStock article in the Star Tribune discussed the egregious practices used by some credit card companies and banks to collect debts owed by deceased persons, often targeting surviving family members who may or may not have a legal obligation to pay. [click to continue…]


Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich - iStockFor some, as they prepare their Wills, it is a pretty clear cut decision on who will receive what and how much. For example, most married couples with children will first leave everything to each other, then when both spouses are gone, their estate will be divided equally among their children (do keep in mind there are reasons not to treat all children equally).

However, for others, figuring out who will receive their estate and how much of that estate, the decisions can be much more difficult and not as clear cut. This could be because the testator never married or had any children or because relations with the testator’s family are strained or there is not a lot of family to choose from.

In these instances, it is important for testators to think through:

1. What individuals (family or friends) and/or charitable organizations they would want to include in their Wills.
2. Determine whether these individuals and/or organizations receive special gifts (see my post on Special Gifts) or residuary gifts.
3. For those receiving the bulk of the testator’s estate (the residuary), figure out the percentage of the estate those individuals and/or organizations will receive.

The reason why working with percentages versus dollar amounts is important for those receiving the bulk of the testator’s estate is because it is unknown what the value of the estate will be when the testator dies. Percentages are easier to work with because it ensures the estate will be divided up, whatever the value is; whereas, if specific large dollar amounts are used, there may not be enough assets to cover those obligations.

For more insight and discussion for your specific situation, be sure to contact an estate planning attorney in your area.


Name: Diana (Marianetti) Ringuette
Employer: Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand, LLP
Position: Attorney
Location: Minneapolis
Education: Hamline University School of Law (J.D., cum laude), Macalester College (B.A.)

How long have you been practicing?

I’ve been practicing law since 2010.

What led you to practice in the area of estate planning?

That’s actually a funny story. When I was a first year in law school, jobs were few and far between. One evening, I saw a posting for a local law firm that had an opening for an “estate planning law clerk.” I thought….wow that sounds….horrible. But, it was a job, and I needed to support myself. Well, I got the job, and much to my surprise, I immediately fell in love with the practice. I loved the interaction with clients, I loved helping them plan for the future, and I loved finding unique ways to work around (and with) family issues.

What is one of the biggest misconceptions people have about estate planning?

The biggest misconception I hear is that estate planning is “only for the wealthy.“ That couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, anyone who wants to have a say in where their property will go and who will care for their kids should have an estate plan in place.

What is your favorite aspect of helping individuals create their estate plan?

My absolute favorite moment is the sigh of relief from my clients once we’ve signed their documents. Being able to provide people with that peace of mind is extremely gratifying.

When do you recommend that an individual start thinking about his or her estate plan?

Ideally, you should do some planning as soon as you’ve established a household, either on your own, or with a partner/spouse. At the very latest, you should begin planning as soon as you have children.

What is a best piece of advice that you share with clients as they think about their estate plan?

What we do is not set in stone. Your plan should grow and evolve with you and your family. People move in and out of your life, your family’s needs change, and your wealth will (hopefully) grow. I recommend that individuals revisit their plan every 3-5 years, or anytime there is a life change (e.g. marriage, new baby, divorce or death in the family).

Any interesting anecdotes?

Whether an estate is worth $20 million or $100,000, family members will always fight over the “stuff.” Whether it’s a necklace, a guitar, or that unique set of china, items of tangible personal property always seem to create controversy. To avoid hard feelings, if there are specific items that you want to go to specific people (or if there are certain items that you think your family members are likely to fight over), create a list to be kept with your Will (your Will must refer to the list) that designates which items go to which beneficiaries. The list doesn’t have to be witnessed (or notarized) like your Will does; it just has to be signed and dated. The list can be printed, written on a piece of notebook paper, or could even be scribbled on a napkin as long as it is signed by you and dated.


After Hours with Philip J. Ruce

by Jennifer Santini August 28, 2014 After Hours

Name: Philip J. Ruce Employer: Stone Arch Law Office, PLLC Position: Attorney Location: Minneapolis Education: University of Minnesota (B.A.), William Mitchell College of Law (J.D.), Thomas Jefferson School of Law (LL.M.) How long have you […]

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Godparents & Guardians: Two Different Roles

by Jayne Sykora August 22, 2014 Estate Planning 101

I often hear in conversation (and I once believed this too!) that if a minor child has godparents, then the same people will be legal guardians of the child if something happens to the child’s […]

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Robin Williams’ Estate: Subject to California Probate?

by Kim Prchal August 19, 2014 Estate Planning 101

As everyone mourns the death of Robin Williams and reflects on his tremendous talents, we estate planning attorneys can’t help but wonder, did Robin Williams do any estate planning? It is apparent that Robin Williams […]

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Designating Authority for Business Owners

by Jennifer Santini August 12, 2014 Business

I know, I know… you have read it over and over again here on Epilawg that it is important to have documents in place for times of incapacity. Yet, as Jayne Sykora and I just […]

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Non-Compete Agreements

by Jayne Sykora August 1, 2014 Business

One item that many employers have begun to use extensively with employees is a non-compete agreement. The main goal of a non-compete agreement (“non-compete”) is for an employer to protect its goodwill, trade secrets and […]

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MN Public Benefit Corporation Act

by Jennifer Santini July 23, 2014 Business

More and more business owners are incorporating a charitable intent or purpose into their companies. However, many still wish to remain a for-profit business and therefore do not apply for non-profit or tax-exempt status. Recently, […]

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Supreme Court Rules on Inherited IRAs

by Jamie Held July 17, 2014 Estate Planning 101

On June 12, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a divisive bankruptcy and estate planning case.  At issue was whether an individual retirement account (“IRA”) that a debtor inherited was exempt from the debtor’s […]

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Independent Contractors

by Jayne Sykora July 15, 2014 Business

Some of the small business clients I work with often want to hire an independent contractor versus bringing on a permanent employee. The use of independent contractors is very attractive to businesses because it can […]

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