Preparing a will, as part of estate planning, can be a daunting proposition, dealing as it does, with the impending death of a person.
But Tim Woessner, the new attorney in Dodge Center who works with Brian Weber and Melanie Leth in offices in Dodge Center and Kasson, spoke to the Dodge Center Lions last Monday about that very thing.
"Estate planning is a way for people to have a handle on what happens to their estate after they are gone - after their death," he said. "If you don't have a will, the State of Minnesota makes the decisions. If a woman lives with a man, but is not married to him, she could get nothing."
He explained that a fairly short document lay out where the property goes and who will take care of the kids.
"Can you do anything you want?" he asked. "Not quite. It's difficult to totally disinherit your spouse. Trusts must have an ending date. This is a tool to specify to the trustee just exactly how to distribute the funds.
"Can you avoid probate? The court decides who gets the assets. There is a process by which the court decides. It's hard to avoid probate entirely."
He suggested that 18 is a good age to set up a health care directive or to at least start thinking about estate planning. He recommended that a young couple have a simple will and add a trust when they have a child.
"As you age, you might have a farm or more assets and you will want to control what happens to your assets," Woessner said. "The will lasts until you revoke it. The will is a living, breathing document and it is a good idea to go over your estate every three to five years. My office will look over your estate plan free of charge and let you know if we think you should make changes."
In answer to a question from one of the men, he said that he estimated a will would cost a couple of hundred dollars.
He said he doesn't see any sense in not having one, partly because it makes so much sense to have an executor chosen. He added that a will can specify setting up trusts for charitable giving as well.
"An estate plan lets people know your desires," he said. "It is important to plan. It gives survivors an idea of whether their loved one wanted to be cremated and where he or she wanted to be buried. A will is a living, breathing thought, in a sense."
Woessner is a graduate of William Mitchell Law School, the University of Minnesota and Byron High School.