Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Making sure ALL of your children are taken care of.

CNN is reporting what will hopefully be the last in the court hearings regarding Anna Nicole Smith's death.

In summary, a California court ruled that, although Danielynn was not expressly provided for in the will, she will be able to benefit from a trust, created by the will, which was set up for Anna's son Daniel. Daniel predeceased Anna.

Although the story is sure to be tabloid fodder today, it does raise a good point about making sure all of your children (born and yet-to-be-born) are taken care of after you are gone.

Minnesota, like all states, gives very limited to no rights for children to inherit if there is a will which does not provide for them. This is because common law jurisdictions, like the US and the UK, prefer to give freedom to the testator to distribute their estate as they see fit. Other countries, like France and Germany, allow children to take some assets even if the will expressly disinherits them.

The common law approach is great for parents who want to teach their lazy kids a lesson, but can create problems for those parents who want to provide for their kids, yet who don't make the necessary provisions. Although Minnesota, like most states, allow children who are born after a will is executed to get some inheritance, this requires court action and can make the process of getting the assets to the children costly in both time and money.

In the recent Anna Nicole Smith hearing, it appears that a pivotal point for the judge was that the trust provisions expressly allowed for any children born after the execution of the will to benefit from the trust. The lesson is one that can be generally applied to estate planning: if you want something to happen, don't leave it up to a judge. Rather, clearly state your wishes in your will or trust documents. When you meet with your estate planner, be sure to discuss your wishes in the event that children are born after you execute your will.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Welcome to the Minnesota Estate Planning and Probate Blog. This monthly blog will discuss news items and topics relating to estate planning, along with discussions about the basics of estate planning and is meant for the estate planning practitioner and individuals wishing to learn more about estate planning and probate alike.