Austin Line understands that many people feel uncomfortable talking about estate planning.
“It’s a bit of a morbid subject to discuss whether it’s just with your spouse or with your children as well,” said Line, the operations manager for Osseo-based Generations Legal Services, a firm that provides comprehensive personal estate planning services. “But when you think about it, you can either hand your inheritance to your children on a silver platter in the form of a proper estate plan or on a garbage can lid that’s filled with probate processes and claims forms. There’s a lot that goes on, and it can be very stressful.”
To help clients navigate the nuances of the estate planning process, Line and his team members take a three-lens approach that encompasses taxes and tax implications, investments and the legal aspects involved in protecting an estate from probate.
“As many people know, your CPAs and your financial advisors and your attorneys rarely speak to one another,” Line said. “We pride ourselves on being the central hub between those three pedestals of your estate.”
Ultimately, what Line loves most about his job is learning the stories of his clients, many of whom are older adults, and figuring out how to preserve the assets they’ve worked so hard to build.
“I think the goal of a lot of human beings is to leave a legacy after they’re gone,” Line said. “And one of the best ways to do that is to have your estate in order. When we have that final meeting and execute their documents, our clients have such a sense of relief that they’ve been educated on how to best avoid probate. Plus, they know they’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure their biggest assets like their home and their IRAs are properly protected.”
If you’re interested in learning more about estate planning and the work Generations Legal Services does for its clients, Line and his team host regular workshops that are free to attend. To view the schedule and register for a session, click here.
Can’t make it to a workshop but still want to find out what estate planning is – and what it isn’t? Here are a few of the common misconceptions that Line hears most often:
- Estate planning is only for people who are well off financially: This is a sentiment that Line frequently comes across – and it’s blatantly untrue. “If you own a home, you’re subject to probate in the state of Minnesota and the threshold for the probate court is any estate valued over $75,000,” Line said. “Even in today’s housing market, there’s still plenty of homeowners that qualify for probate if they don’t have their estate in order, but the good news is there are simple steps you can take in order to avoid the lengthy probate process.” To that end, Line and his colleagues work closely with estate planning and elder law attorneys who are licensed in multiple states. The Generations Legal Services team will handle the administrative work, package up the client’s files and send them on to the attorney to draft the documents. “Then they send us the finalized documents and we meet with the clients face to face to have their documents executed,” he said. “It’s very fast, efficient and easy and we’ve worked out certain agreements with the law firms we work with to keep a flat-rate price rather than an hourly rate, which always helps the pocketbooks of our clients.”
- If you have a will, you’re all set: Most people are aware of the importance of having a will drawn up and once they do so, they assume everything is taken care of. Unfortunately, Line said, simply having a will doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be able to avoid probate. “A will is essentially just a list of your items, personal belongings and assets that indicates where you would like them to go. A will cannot own anything unlike a trust can,” he said. “That’s one of the main things I run into. People will get their wills done and they think that they can avoid the probate process and that’s just not the case.”
- Money always brings out the worst in people: We’ve all heard horror stories of families being torn apart after a loved one dies and his or her estate is distributed. However, it doesn’t have to be this way and Line is thankful he hasn’t had to deal with much of this type of drama. “We always like to keep the entire family in the loop so there aren’t any surprises,” he said. “That’s because at the end of the day, they’re going to be the ones who will be handling the estate settlement of their parents and utilizing the trust.” If there’s an issue that can potentially lead to family tension, Line noted, there are ways to circumvent it. For example, if one of the children isn’t good with money, a spendthrift provision can be included in the parents’ legal plans. This would ensure that the money this child receives is distributed over a certain period of time instead of dropping a large inheritance on him or her all at once. “Money can be the root of all evil,” Line said. “But at the same time, we work with a lot of clients who are charitably inclined and being able to leave a legacy and help people after you’re gone is a very fulfilling feeling for our clients, and for us, too.”
To schedule a free initial meeting with Generations Legal Services, click here.
Abra Kadabra Environmental Services is proud to share the wisdom of business owners from our community through our thought leadership series. If you’d like to be featured, click here.