Minnesota Seniors Online


Wills, Trusts And Other Essential Estate Planning Instruments
by Johnson, Larson and Peterson, P.A.
Attorneys at Law


When it comes time to create your estate plan, or if a loved one has died recently and you are going through the probate process, you should not handle your legal representation on your own or trust an inexperienced lawyer. There is a lot at stake, and successful representation in these matters requires extensive legal experience and knowledge and an understanding of the various legal nuances involved. You need to work with a law firm with a reputation for exceptional legal service in probate and estates.

At Johnson, Larson & Peterson, P.A., estate planning and probate are among our most important focus areas as a firm.  Contact us today at   (763) 682-4550 or visit www.jlplawmn.com


A Will is a legal document that allows you to transfer your money, property, and personal belongings as you wish after your death. Without a Will, the law of the State of Minnesota will determine who gets your property.


Probate is the legal process of gathering and inventorying your property (your estate), paying your debts and making sure all property left over is divided among your heirs or beneficiaries. This process is supervised and approved by a Judge. The process itself however is completed by your Personal Representative. You can name who you want to be the Personal Representative to handle the probate of your estate in your Will. If you have no Will, the Court will decide who will be your Personal Representative.


Minnesota probate laws generally apply to people who owned property in and were residents of Minnesota at the time of their death. Additionally, Minnesota probate laws apply to property in Minnesota owned by a nonresident of Minnesota. Please note: Having a Will does not avoid probate. The need for probate depends upon the type of property involved, whether it is owned by you alone or owned with someone else and if such property is subject to a beneficiary designation.


Certain types of property and assets do not go through the probate process. Some of these

include property owned as joint tenants, jointly held bank accounts, payable-on-death accounts, life insurance proceeds to a specific beneficiary and pension survivorship benefits paid to a named beneficiary at death. In Minnesota, a Transfer on Death Deed (TODD) allows a person to designate beneficiaries to receive title to their real property upon death. There are additional types of property and ownership methods that may allow certain types of property to avoid the probate process as well. It may be advantageous for you to determine if other types of property you own may be able to avoid the probate process.


A Trust is a separate legal entity that you create to manage the distribution of all or part of your property. You are generally considered the "grantor", "donor" or "settlor" of the Trust you create. Once created, the Trust is funded when you transfer some of your property into the Trust by transferring it to the Trustee of the Trust. You name the Trustee who can be a professional with financial knowledge, a relative or friend, or a professional trust company. The Trustee holds title to the property and manages the property for the benefit of the beneficiaries you name in the Trust. The beneficiaries may be a specific person, or an organization such as a Church or charity


Establishing a Trust requires you to create a legal document that specifies the purpose of the trust, names a Trustee or Trustees to manage the trust assets, identifies the beneficiaries of the trust, and directs the Trustee how, when, in what amounts and for what purposes you want the Trustee to distribute funds to your named beneficiaries and to put some of your property into the trust (referred to as the "funding" of the trust). You may want to consider contacting an attorney if you would like to set up a trust.

An attorney can help you evaluate whether or not you need a Trust. If a Trust makes sense in your situation, an attorney can give you ideas as to how best to make your Trust achieve your goals and truly benefit the beneficiaries you have named. An attorney can also help review all your estate planning goals and make sure that any trust you create fits well in your overall estate planning.


  • A Trust for your surviving spouse can provide for the spouse’s future needs, name a Trustee to manage and/or invest the Trust funds, and establish the details of how, when, and under what conditions, distributions can be made to the spouse.

  • A couple with minor children could establish a trust for the benefit of their children should they both die while the children are still young. They can establish at what age or ages their children could receive significant distributions as well as provide for their daily needs and education.

  • A person may establish a trust for a child with special needs so the child will still qualify for government benefits available to the child due to their disability.

  • A trust promoting a particular good cause or religion may be established to leave a legacy to that cause or religion.


A Power of Attorney is a document authorizing someone to act on your behalf. You determine how much power the person will have over your affairs. Your Power of Attorney can be a general or limited Power of Attorney. A general Power of Attorney authorizes your agent to conduct your entire business and affairs. A limited or special Power of Attorney authorizes your agent to conduct specific business, perform specified acts, or make certain decisions on your behalf. A Power of Attorney is considered "durable," when you denote that it remains valid even if you become incompetent or incapacitated. A Power of Attorney is very valuable, but also very powerful. You must have trust in your attorney-in-fact(s). If you have a Power of Attorney and become unable to pay a bill, sign a tax return or sell your house because you become incapacitated, the person you named can do it for you. If not, it will take a court appointed Conservator to act. Note: A Power of Attorney ceases/terminates upon death.


A Health Care Directive is a written document that informs others of your health care wishes. It allows you to name a person (or "agent") to make decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Under Minnesota law, anyone 18 or older can make a Health Care Directive. Without one, your wishes may not be followed or your family may have to go to court to obtain the power to make sure your wishes are upheld.

Call to schedule your consultation with attorneys Amy Trehey or Rozlyn Scott.

Johnson, Larson
& Peterson, P.A.
Attorneys at Law
A Tradition of Service ~
A History of Trust
908 Commercial Drive
Buffalo, MN 55313
(763) 682-4550

Disclaimer – The information contained herein is for informational purposes only. Each individual’s financial and family circumstances are unique and can only be properly addressed by speaking to an attorney learned in estate planning.


The Stories We Leave Behind
By Meg Sobieck

"Where did you get all this stuff, Grandma?" asked Hazel, 3 years old.

Have you ever stopped to think seriously about the story you want to leave behind, or rather how you want to be remembered? Your space and stuff at home or work can help you leave the legacy you want, and with the right resources, it’s a doable task that you can easily begin today.

One helpful tool I recently came across is a small paperback book titled, "The Stories We Leave Behind: A Legacy-Based Approach to Dealing with Stuff," by Laura Gilbert. I spotted someone in a local historical society reading and marking up pages while sitting behind the front desk. Intrigued by the title, I asked her about it. She went on to tell me the fascinating concepts the author outlines to help the reader reorganize and pair down their "stuff." Things they bought, pieces they inherited, gifts they received, odds and ends in the attic, and so on.

As I paged through the book, immediately I loved the simplicity of each chapter: 1) Lost Stories; 2) The Story of Stuff; 3) Choosing and Telling Legacy Stories; 4) Putting it All Together; and finally, 5) Living Among Your Best Stories.

One of my favorite parts is the activities section at the back of the book. A page titled, "Stand and Consider" asks the reader thoughtful questions to help them specifically survey their space. #1. What themes, personal values or characteristics are reflected in your stuff (e.g., family, adventure, art, entertaining)? #2. Which themes do you consider important to pass on; to be part of your legacy? #3. Which items tell those stories efficiently and meaningfully?

So, how do you want to be remembered, and what story tells that legacy? Does your home and the belongings in it shine in the spotlight they deserve, or is it clouded with clutter and excess? If these are questions you want help in answering, Smart Organizing Solutions can step in today and assist. We provide basic transition services for people all over central Minnesota who are looking to downsize their property, and right size their space, for whatever reason.

Call Kelly at 320.333.7733 or Julie at 320.248.6694 for a free consultation. Mention this ad when you become our next client and receive a $25 in-store credit at our thrift store / consignment shop, The SOS Treasure Chest, located at 24 7th St. N. in Sauk Rapids, MN. 

Click Here to visit our website.

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This section is dedicated to providing seniors, family members, and caregivers with news, tips, articles, and information pertaining to everyday living, housing, and other relevant issues that affect today's Seniors.