Contesting a Minnesota Power of AttorneyContesting a Power of Attorney

Powers of attorney are incredibly useful documents in that they hand over important rights to allow another person to manage certain aspects of your life if and when you are unable to do so on your own.

Depending on how broad the power of attorney was written, the agent (the person on the receiving end of the power of attorney) will be able to make a number of crucial decisions on behalf of the principal (the person giving away the power). Essentially, the agent will be able to act like he or she is the principal, standing in the principal’s shoes.

Control of a Person’s Assets

What does this look like in practice? For broad powers of attorney, it can mean that the agent has the ability to control all of a person’s assets, financial accounts, financial decisions and even healthcare decisions. In these cases, the principal is truly trusting his or her life in the agent’s hands.

The agent is required to act in the principal’s best interest, but as I’m sure you can imagine, that does not always go so smoothly. In some cases, the agent may be abusing his or her powers or acting in ways that run counter to the wishes of the principal. If the principal is incapacitated and isn’t able to dispute the power of attorney on their own, what can be done? Thankfully, there are options, including a challenge by a loved one.

Power of Attorney Law

First things first, if you’re considering challenging the appointment of a power of attorney and you aren’t the person that made the appointment, you will need to gather evidence demonstrating why the principal is unable to challenge the appointment themselves. If the principal is fully aware of what’s going on and chooses to do nothing, either because he or she agrees or is simply willing to go along with the decisions of the designated agent, then it is unlikely a court will intervene.

It will be important to show that the principal is in some way incapacitated, such as being in a coma, suffering from dementia or other serious health problems. If it can be shown that the principal is unable to raise a dispute, then your chance of mounting a successful challenge increases.

Another thing to pay attention to if you’re considering challenging the appointment of a power of attorney is to see whether the proper legal formalities were followed. Was the power of attorney executed in the way required by state law? Did it include the right language? Was it witnessed by the proper number of people? Any of these flaws could be enough to attack a power of attorney designation and should thus be carefully scrutinized.

If there aren’t any formal flaws, it’s now time to turn your attention to broader abuse by the agent. In these cases, the appointment is valid, but will need to be revoked by a court. To launch a successful challenge, you’ll need to be prepared to show that the agent is abusing the authority he or she has been entrusted with. Examples of serious abuse include theft of the principal’s property, mismanagement of the principal’s assets and a neglect or disinterest in the principal’s needs. You’ll want to do your best to avoid this becoming a he-said, she-said battle and stick to objective facts, as this will improve your odds of raising a successful claim.

Challenging A Power of Attorney

Challenging a power of attorney can be quite difficult. After all, powers of attorneys are meant to withstand attack and give some comfort to the principal that the person they designate will remain the person in charge no matter what. To overcome this presumption that the principal’s selection should be upheld you will need to compile strong evidence showing that the agent has lost sight of his or her duty and that a judge should feel compelled to act.

Minnesota Power of Attorney Lawyers

An experienced Minnesota power of attorney lawyer can help walk you through the probate process, answering questions along the way. For more information on estate planning in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at (612) 424-0398.

How to Avoid Probate in MinnesotaThe Benefits of Bypassing Probate Through The Small Estate Exception

We’ve all heard that probate is a process best avoided, if possible. It can take time, costs money and involves prolonged contact with a court, all things most people would prefer to steer clear of. Probate can be avoided with the help of an experienced Minnesota estate-planning attorney.

The good news is that in other cases probate can also be avoided (or expedited) just because of the size of the estate.

Why would the size of the estate matter? The reason that certain small estates are exempted from certain aspects of the probate process is to avoid wasting precious resources. If a person only leaves behind a few thousand dollars, it would be unjust to spend a substantial percentage of that going through probate trying to figure out whom to disburse the money to.

Far better to let the heirs apply for an expedited process that allows them to walk away with a larger amount in their pockets and less in the probate court’s coffers.

Minnesota Small Estate Affidavit process

If inheritors follow certain steps, Minnesota law allows them to skip the probate process altogether, provided, of course, the estate clears certain financial hurdles. Under the simple affidavit process, all an inheritor has to do is prepare a short affidavit that explains that he or she is entitled to a certain asset.

The document must be signed under oath and can then be presented to a bank or other financial institution holding an asset. The bank then gets the affidavit and a copy of the person’s death certificate and will then release the asset. This simple affidavit process is possible in Minnesota only if the entire estate does not exceed $75,000. The only other rule to keep in mind is that you must wait 30 days after the person’s death to use the affidavit.

Simplified probate

Small estates can also use what is known as a simplified probate process. This less burdensome approach requires an executor fill out a written request from the local probate court asking to use the simplified probate procedure. The court will then decide whether to grant the executor the authority to distribute assets without going through all the steps usually associated with probate. The simplified process can be used in Minnesota only after the court ensures that no property is subject to claims by creditors.

Are there any downsides? So far it sounds like a universally appealing option if it’s available to you. If you are set to inherit a small estate then anything that helps reduce the time and expense associated with securing that inheritance is a great thing.

One word of warning, though it can be good to avoid the cost of paying a lawyer, if you have any concerns about the estate or the steps involved in finalizing the process, it’s better to take a moment and seek an experienced opinion rather than potentially make a mess that could cost even more money to fix down the road. Even small estates can include complicated questions that would benefit from the wisdom of a skilled estate-planning attorney.

Minnesota Probate Lawyers

An experienced Minnesota probate lawyer can help walk you through the probate process, answering questions along the way. For more information on estate planning in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at (612) 424-0398.