Monday, August 25, 2014

The Cisco Shuffle. Or, Why I Called the Secretary of State


Why yes, I was grooving out to this hold music. So why is an estate planner/probater on hold with the Secretary of State's office? Well, it all started when I needed to do a UCC search. For the lawyers out there, you might be wondering why I'd be doing that since I don't do debtor/creditor law (for the non-lawyers out there, I don't help/fight the repo man).

However, there's a good reason why I'd need to be on there when it comes to dealing with an estate. It's pretty common for an estate to auction off the deceased's personal property. Running a UCC search for liens (which are like mortgages, but instead of a bank securing their loan through real estate, a creditor secures its loans through personal property), can help you, the auctioneer and the personal representative know that the items sold are clear of liens, which can crop up especially if the deceased owned a business.

Also, the Secretary of State's office was super helpful and quick with the answer. Which was great (not great if you have a strange addition to the Cisco Shuffle, but I don't).

(photo credit:
Thanks _Untitled-1 for allowing creative commons 2.0 use of your pic!)

Monday, August 18, 2014

What's in a Name?

After over six years of this blog, why the new name and redesign? When I first started this job, I was a brand new baby attorney working as a law clerk (attorney for judges... that's what my judges called us, so I'll happily use that definition), hoping to establish a probate practice once my clerk year was done. The blog was partly an excuse for me to dig into probate and estate law. Anyone who listens to me for any amount of time when it comes to "death law", knows I geek out about it and should console themselves with the notion that I have an outlet to get (most) of the geeky-ness out. Quite honestly, it's also a way to market myself. Even more honestly, at the time I started the blog I wanted to prove myself as a real-honest-to-goodness attorney. Hence the run of the mill design and even more run of the mill title and was stuck in the rut ever since. My stodginess was born by a fear of not being taken seriously.

Now that I have an established probate practice (heck, I've taught other estate planners how to plan estates that span the globe), I feel less like proving myself as attorney. More importantly, I've learned that "estate planning" is more than dropping some money to have an attorney create a will or a trust and thinking your affairs are in order. Estate planning isn't just a legal thing and just like managing your junk drawer, it isn't just a one time thing.

Hence the name: An Organized (after)Life. Estate planning is organizing (and continuing to organize) your affairs so that your loved ones can spend their time working through losing you and spend as little time as possible dealing with seeing a lawyer, going to court, organizing your documents, dealing with your creditors, planning your funeral, trying to see eye-to-eye with each other, etc. While not as fun to look at as an organized closet or color coded folders in a drawer (not only am I a law geek, but I think looking at an organized closet is fun!), it'll be one of the best gifts you can give to your loved ones. I hope my posts will get you to think about how your stuff should be organized. That your "after", after meeting with an attorney, pre-planning your funeral, working with a financial planner, works better than what it would have had you been hit by a bus "before" and that doing this doesn't become an "after"thought that gets put on the back burner until it doesn't get done at all. For me, organization takes folders, tags, post-its and color coordination, hence the non-esquire-esque/non-fancy-schmancy design.

I also have to admit that I've been influenced by other blogs. For a time I was the resident small town contributor to Lawyerist, a national law blog, where I was challenged to make posts authentic and interesting. I'm also taking inspiration from some unlikely sources for a "blawgger", home improvement blogs like, Young House Love, Manhatten Nest and It's Great to Be Home. Although these have been some go-to sites for lunch break perusing for a while now, it wasn't until recently that it occurred to me that the bloggers are personable, funny, honest... and still authoritative (or at least seem trustworthy about what they know). While wills and insurance and funeral plans may never be as exciting to look at as home renovations and design (honestly, I could stare at those design choices forever), if I can be as helpful (which I hope I have been) and a fraction as interesting (which I have assuredly not been) maybe I can steer more people to not let a fear of jinxing getting hit by a bus get in the way of taking control of their estate and (effectively) use professionals like attorneys, financial planners, accountants, etc. to properly organize their affairs. Thank you readers, for having enough interest to have been reading Minnesota Estate Planning and Probate when it was stodgy (click the link to see it in all its stodgy glory, but look in the archives on this blog for its content), and I hope you find the changes to be a fresh take on a boring (for many, but totally-not-for-me) topic.

(photo credit:
Thanks Emily Rose for allowing creative commons 2.0 use of your pic!)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Paper It! Or, Why It Matters to Have Business Certificates

Many people set up business entities for a variety of reasons, whether it's managing an entity that provides goods a services, planning for estate tax, limiting liability, or all of the above. The first step in setting up a business is to meet with an attorney to make sure you're meeting all the formalities to get the most protection for both the entity and your personal affairs.

A common step that is written out of the creation of many entities is a share or membership certificate. Many people, including attorneys think certificates (think a fancy piece of paper that looks like something Mr. Moneybags would have in a safe) are really only for the Wall Street big boys and not the mom and pop shops. It may seem old fashioned, but having a certificate is an important step to minimize the need for probate.

Why? You can list a payable on death designation on the certificate itself that says who receives your share upon your death. This makes your interests in the business automatically transfer without the need for probate. If you have a business, let your estate planner know so you can make sure it's ready to be properly addressed at your death.

(photo credit: 
Thanks Mike for allowing creative commons 2.0 use of your pic!)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Now Why Don't (s)He Write?

If you're a child of both the 90's and South Dakota, as I am, you might get that reference to Dances with Wolves. Back in November, I announced a two-month hiatus from blogging due to the impending birth of heir #2. Nine months (and only one measly post) later, I'm ready to dive back in. Yeah, so much for two months. I plead "harried working mom". A child who took eight months to learn to sleep through the night, pretty significant office(s) expansion, chasing a three year old, small town mayor duties, a trip for a wedding and a house sale/purchase/move, all while ensuring my clients were well cared for, left little extra time for the blawg.

Now that things have settled down a bit and I've had (count 'em) twelve full nights of sleep, I'm back. Not only look for the monthly posts you're used to, but an increase in content and a redesign of the site. The plan is to take the blog from a run of the mill blawg that looks and reads like you're walking into an attorney office, to something that tells and shows how to think about estate planning more like what it actually is, making things as organized for those you leave behind as what you try to do your yourself in life. Also, be on the lookout for a new name to something a bit less yawn inducing than "Minnesota Estate Planning and Probate".

In the meantime, feel free to peruse the archives and excuse the mess. You might see the look of the site alter a bit, but consider it a preview of things to come.

(photo credit:
Thanks Caninest for allowing creative commons 2.0 use of your pic!)