Law Happenings: Trust Benefits Nonprofit Organizations

In 1886, Otto Bremer immigrated from Germany to the St. Paul, Minnesota area. By his death in 1944, Bremer made his fortune through successful investments in banks and brewing companies. Although Otto Bremer died over 65 years ago in 1951, his legacy lives on through the Otto Bremer Trust. Founded by Bremer in 1944, the Otto Bremer Trust continues to help nonprofits in the US.

This year, several nonprofit organizations received a record amount of money from the trust. According to the Mankato Free Press, the trust gave over $400,000 to organizations in the Mankato area this past year. Local organizations that received grants included Open Door Health Center,  Mayo Clinic Health System, The Miracle League, United Way, and the Lake Crystal Area Recreation Center.

Financial gifts from trusts help nonprofit organizations start new programs, improve current infrastructure, and bring more services to the people they serve. Open Door Health Center, which received the largest grant, will be able to open new dental clinics, while The Miracle League of North Mankato will build an inclusive Fallenstein Playground. Other nonprofits use the gifts for operation expenses, helping them stay open and provide services.

Starting a trust is one of the best ways to ensure you continue to support organizational missions you care about for generations to come. It’s easy to start a trust while you’re still living and establish a company mission and record of giving in line with your values. Although many people believe you have to be extremely wealthy to establish a trust, this isn’t actually the case. Over the years, your foundation’s assets will grow, allowing your donations, however small they are initially, to grow with time.

Contact us for help establishing a trust.

Do People Really Need Wills?

Bringing up a will is never an easy thing. Death is difficult and many people would rather not think about it. However, if you don’t plan ahead and write out a will now, your family may suffer after you pass away.

Why Are Wills Important?

If you want to make sure your assets and possessions get distributed properly after you pass, you need to ensure that it’s clearly stated in a will. Wills are important because they allow you to choose what goes where before it’s too late. As terrible as it seems, some people may try to take advantage of your passing and a will ensure that the right things happen after your death.

What Can Happen If I Don’t Have A Will?

According to Investopia, without a will, the state will determine how to disperse your assets based on a basic formula. The state created its formula in a way that makes sense for a the most people possible. However, in some cases, it can negatively impact your family. This means it is imperative that you reach out to an attorney and put together a will that works specifically for you.

What Does An Attorney Actually Do?

In the state of Texas, there are two kinds of wills: an attested will or a holographic will. The attested will is one that has been witnessed and the holographic will is one that an individual writes his or herself. In general, an attested or formal will is the better option. The reason for this is that a court may not recognize a will written by your own hand. This means it is best to contact an attorney and create a formal will.

Ford + Bergner LLP would be happy to assist you in creating a final will and testament. Reach out to us today.

Avoiding The Common Causes of Estate Litigation

An unattributed quote that makes the social media rounds a few times per year sums up a feeling that many parents have when thinking about the children they have raised:

“A mother’s prayer is that her children will love each other long after she is gone.”

This is sadly not the reality for many families, and many sibling relationships sour as a result of disagreements over how to handle a parents’ estate. As estate planning attorneys, we know all too well that a lack of preparation during life can result in toxic estate litigation between children long after your death.

The good news is that estate litigation is largely preventable by undertaking thorough estate planning with the help of a proven professional.

Common Causes of Estate Litigation

Typical triggers for will contests and other estate litigation include:
•    Accusations of fraud
•    Parents allegedly agreeing to changes under duress or as a result of undue influence
•    Life insurance designations or lack thereof
•    The presence of a new spouse after a will has been created

All of these issues can be avoided through proper planning and execution of a will, trusts, and other estate planning vehicles. The simple action of creating a will while you are in good health can avoid most allegations of duress and undue influence. Likewise, having your will updated when you remarry can avoid issues with a new spouse or children from a second marriage.

We can help you create an estate plan that addresses these issues and clearly defines what you want to see done with your financial assets, real property, and other possessions. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Four Tips To Plan Your Will

Though everyone knows that they need a will, most people don’t have one. They don’t want to think about dying, though it is really important to plan ahead – for your family. Even if you do only write a will for your family, do it for them. Don’t give your family anything else to worry about when you are gone.

Here are some tips to help you plan your will.

  • Remember that it doesn’t have to be hard. Most people use the excuse that it is too much work to write a will. However, it doesn’t have to be. Just write it all out, get it signed, and stick it somewhere safe.
  • It is your will and your decision. It doesn’t matter who is in your will. If you want your children and relatives to get things, put it down. If you don’t want them to get anything, at least mention them so they don’t think that you forgot them.
  • Be very specific and thorough in your will. Make sure that you write down who you want to inherit all of your belongings, even if it doesn’t seem like it should matter. Many items are sentimental and sometimes little things can cause the most fighting.
  • If you own a business, make sure that is included in your will. Make sure that you have plans for your business when you are gone, whether you want to give it to someone in your family or you want it to be closed down.

It can be really hard to write a will and to think about life when you are gone. However, it is not as hard as most people make it out to be. Just write down who you want to inherit what and get it signed. Be as specific as possible and don’t forget about your business.

Contact us for all of your legal needs.

Three More Tips To Plan Your Will

If you are one of those people who are avoiding it, you really need to write your will. It is really important that you plan ahead for your family! Be as specific as possible to avoid any confrontations down the line.

If you are struggling, here are some more tips to help you plan your will.

Remember that you can give people money without worrying about taxes. Most people don’t want to give their family members money because they worry about the income taxes. However, for most people, they won’t have to pay any taxes on money that they inherit. If you are concerned about it, seek legal advice.

Have all of your papers in a safe place. Even though your retirement accounts, life insurance, and other important papers don’t need to be in your will, they should be close by and easily available. Make sure that they all have a beneficiary so that your family can use them.

Don’t forget about a living will. Though you may not need it at your age, it doesn’t hurt to have a living will. This gives your family members instructions in case you are seriously injured. If you don’t want any drastic measures taken, make sure that your living will is up-to-date.

When planning your will, make sure that all of your other paperwork is in order (and easily found). You may also want to write a living will if you have specific instructions that you want taken in case of an injury. Don’t avoid giving people money just because of taxes. If you are really concerned, seek legal advice to ensure that your family members will be taken care of properly.

Contact us for all of your legal needs.

What Happens To Your Children If You Don’t Have a Will?

As a parent, you would do anything for your child. Does that include after you are gone? You will still want your children to be well taken care of, even if it can’t be you. However, what happens to your children if you don’t have a will? The fate of your children rests in the hands of the state – which is not always a good thing.

Most of the time, children are placed with their other parent. Unless incapacitated or unfit, the children will usually go to the other parent first. This can be a problem if you have several children by different parents because your children will be separated, even if they are used to being together.

If the other parent is unfit or can’t be found, another guardian will be appointed. If you are re-married (to someone else), your spouse may be able to keep your children if he or she is willing. Family members can try for guardianship, though there are cases when a judge will appoint someone else, especially if your family members are elderly.

Judges do want to do what is best for your children. There are even some states that allow children to have a say when it comes to who they want to live with. They try to find people who have a relationship with your children though it is not always possible.

There are times when your family may petition the court to name themselves as guardians of your children. This can become a long drawn-out court battle, though the court may rule in their favor. Instead of letting the courts decide, you should make sure that your children are well taken care of by writing a will!

Contact us for all of your legal needs.

Lessons From Prince About Estate Planning

You might not see movie stars and musicians at the local grocery store, but you may have more in common than you think with famous entertainers. Just like them, you could need estate planning tools to ensure the financial legacy you leave behind is used how you want it to be. Prince’s story shows others how to make smarter estate planning choices.

No plans and huge government fees

Prince had no will, or any other estate planning documents, so the majority of his assets are going to the government. A 40% percent federal tax coupled with a 16% Minnesota state tax turn the late celebrity’s $200 million fortune into about $88 million. Since the singer was unmarried, childless and didn’t stipulate who his assets should go to, the $88 million gets divided equally between his six siblings.

Charitable giving

As Prince was extremely wealthy, he could have established a private foundation. Giving money to charity reduces the value of an estate and comes with tax benefits, so this is an option even for those who don’t have the capital to start their own foundation.

Using a trust

One kind of trust that may have worked for Prince is a Grantor Retained Annuity Trust. A GRAT generates income for the grantor for a fixed amount of time while the remainder of assets in the trust go to beneficiaries. Assets belong to the trust instead of the grantor, so there is no estate or gift tax.

Contact us today to learn more about your estate planning options.