SERVICES

Thank you for visiting the Stevens Law, P.L.L.C. website. Stevens Law, P.L.L.C. (the “Firm”) is a small, quiet, boutique private law office offering estate planning, probate and trust services to individuals, couples, business owners, professionals, pre-retirees and retirees. The Firm’s first priority is to provide distinctive and personal service of the highest quality to meet its clients’ wealth preservation, estate planning and business-succession planning needs on a cost effective basis.

Estate planning is an investment that produces enormous benefits for your family and loved ones. By planning ahead now, when you have the time and ability to think and to identify your goals and how you want to attain those goals, you can save your family and loved ones significant amounts of money as well as unnecessary stress. By planning ahead, you can also reduce controversy among your family and loved ones and unintended negative results.

Most of the Firm’s clients are Minnesota residents. The Firm welcomes and appreciates new clients. Although you may not have heard of the Firm yet, please consider calling Scott E. Stevens, Owner, Attorney & Counselor if you believe that you, a family member or someone you know may benefit from assistance with estate planning, probate or trust services.

Many of the Firm’s new clients are referred by bank officers, financial advisors, accountants, insurance agents and other satisfied clients. The Firm truly appreciates all the referrals it has received from colleagues in the financial services industry and from satisfied clients. The Firm works to ensure that its new and existing clients remain happy, satisfied, repeat and lifelong clients. The Firm treasures its client relationships and strives to give each of its clients as much personalized service and attention as they need or desire. The Firm recommends and encourages its existing clients to periodically review their estate plans with Scott E. Stevens.

The Firm can help create, review or update your estate plan. Scott Stevens views himself as an objective, experienced, professional legal advisor on a myriad of topics related to proper, reputable, “time-tested” estate-planning techniques. The Firm strives to provide friendly, professional service on a cost-effective basis that focuses on the clients and their individual needs. The complexities of the estate planning process are clarified by educating and shepherding the clients confidently step by step through the process while alerting them to the hazards along the way.

The Firm uses relaxed personalized interviews, forthright attorney-client discussions and competent guidance and counseling to help its clients identify their estate planning goals. As a general rule, the common goal is to identify and accomplish what the client wants, consistent with prudent and effective, generally accepted estate-planning techniques that benefit the client.

Although a common and frequent goal of the Firm’s clients is simplicity, it is critical and beneficial to cover all the bases in order to ensure that their estate plan meets and accomplishes their needs and goals. Taking short-cuts is generally neither prudent nor recommended.

As a general rule, and for good reason, the Firm usually prefers private family trust agreements as the centerpiece of most of its clients’ estate plans. Private family trust agreements help the clients preserve their wealth for future generations, assure continuity of control of their assets, minimize unnecessary estate taxes, assure privacy, and avoid the expense and delays of probate.

In addition to designing and drafting trust agreements, other documents the Firm often prepares include Wills, powers of attorney, health care directives and other special purpose tools.

The Firm wants and strives for all of its clients to remain in control of their situation, to be happy, satisfied, repeat and lifelong clients. The Firm does so in part by:

  • Assisting its clients to choose and appoint family members or trusted friends to manage their financial affairs, make critical medical decisions for them pursuant to the clients’ expressed preferences or instructions, and be the guardians for their minor children.
  • Offering estate planning assistance and guidance to its clients with the unique needs of family cabins, businesses and farms to help them preserve these important parts of their legacy for future generations.
  • Offering guidance and assistance to members of the GLBT Community with their unique estate planning needs.
  • Offering assistance to its clients who have family members with special needs by creating Special Needs and Supplemental Needs Trusts.
  • Helping families who have experienced the loss of a loved one with the ensuing Probate or Trust Administration process.
  • Working closely with the other members of its clients’ financial team, including, but not limited to, accountants, financial advisors and insurance agents, to make sure its clients’ estate plan and their financial plan are coordinated and meet the clients’ goals in order to help its clients preserve their wealth and achieve their long-term financial goals.

The Firm does not sell financial products or services, such as investments or insurance products. However, the Firm works closely, with the other members of its clients’ financial team to coordinate the clients’ estate plan and financial plan in order to help the Firm’s clients preserve their wealth and achieve their long-term financial goals.

This is a brand new web site, so please explore the site and check back frequently for future updates.


ESTATE PLANNING

Estate planning involves organizing your personal and financial affairs, protecting and preserving your assets, and ensuring that your property and assets are enjoyed by and distributed to your family and loved ones according to your wishes during your life and after your death.

Estate planning is a process that has the following objectives in mind:

  • To protect and preserve your assets;
  • Smoothly and effectively establish and implement a succession plan for your business(es);
  • To assure continuity of control of your assets so that at your passing your assets are distributed according to your wishes and instructions to your family and loved ones in a manner that will give them the maximum benefits;
  • To appoint a trusted friend or family member to manage and handle your business and non-business finances on your behalf when you are incompetent or incapacitated;
  • To appoint a trusted friend or family member to make healthcare decisions on your behalf when you are injured, sick or dying;
  • To minimize or eliminate unnecessary estate taxes for your estate; and
  • To provide for the distribution or transfer of your assets at your demise to your chosen beneficiaries without the necessity of probate and without its costs, time delays, and inconveniences.

A comprehensive professional quality estate plan that provides for the needs of your family may include the creation of one or more of the following depending on your needs, goals and wishes:

  • A Will;
  • A Revocable Living Trust;
  • An Irrevocable Trust, such as a life insurance trust or charitable remainder trust;
  • A Qualified Personal Residence Trust;
  • Durable powers of attorney;
  • Health care directive; and
  • Other special purpose estate planning tools.

During your initial meeting, the focus is on you and your individual needs, goals and wishes. As a result, a comprehensive professional quality estate plan is designed and built that meets your indentified needs, goals and wishes consistent with prudent and effective, generally accepted estate-planning techniques that benefit you and your family.


Probate and Trust Administration

If you have recently lost a loved one, there are many legal and financial proceedings you may be concerned about. Stevens Law, P.L.L.C. can help you with any questions you may have regarding probate and trust administration. Scott E. Stevens provides personalized services to trustees, personal representatives, and all others involved in the probate and trust administration process.

Probate
Probate is the court-supervised process of transferring property at death pursuant to the terms of a will. Probate simply means the process by which your last will is determined to be your final dispositive statement and which confirms the appointment of the person or institution you have named to administer your estate.

The term probate is also used in the larger sense of probating your estate. In this sense, probate means the process by which assets are gathered, applied to pay debts, taxes and expenses of administration, and distributed to those designated as beneficiaries in the will. The executor or personal representative named in the will is in charge of this process, and probate provides an orderly method for administration of the estate.

The need for probate can be minimized or avoided by utilizing a trust or other probate avoidance technique. In most cases where the decedent had a trust, the assets held in that trust do not have to pass through probate. Even if decedent had a trust, however, probate may be required for those assets which were not included in the trust.

Trust Administration
If decedent had a trust and you have been named trustee, it can be to your benefit to seek legal advice, as the trust will have to be administered in compliance with its own terms and with Minnesota state law. Scott Stevens can help you through this process and ensure that your responsibilities are met. This includes notifying beneficiaries, gathering assets, and consulting with financial advisors regarding the preparation of estate tax returns.

Would you like to speak with Scott Stevens regarding probate and trust administration? Please contact Stevens Law, P.L.L.C. to arrange your consultation. Scott Stevens is readily accessible to his clients and approaches their concerns with both creativity and care.


Family Cabin or Lake Home Succession Planning

A family cabin, lake home, business or farm can be a great source of pride and memories for the family, while also creating family conflicts and complications.

  • Revocable trusts,
  • Insurance trusts,
  • Family limited liability companies,
  • Family partnerships, or
  • Joint ownership agreements.

Any of these tools can be used to govern the family cabin or lake home usage, how a child’s share can be transferred on death or divorce, payment of expenses, the buy-out of family members who lose interest in the property, etc. Each tool has its own benefits and drawbacks, but generally the family discussions and compromises that take place as part of the process are more important than the specific planning tool chosen or utilized.

It is important that the family have the discussions and come to a general understanding of how joint ownership and usage will be handled. A little bit of planning now can keep the cabin or lake home in the family and preserve the memories that both the parents and children cherish.

By planning ahead now, when you have the time and ability to think and to identify your goals and how you want to attain those goals, you can save your family and loved ones significant amounts of money as well as unnecessary stress. By planning ahead, you can also reduce controversy among your family and loved ones and unintended negative results.

Stevens Law, P.L.L.C. uses relaxed personalized interviews, forthright attorney-client discussions and competent guidance and counseling to help its clients identify their estate planning goals. As a general rule, the common goal is to identify and accomplish what the client(s) want(s), consistent with prudent and effective, generally accepted estate-planning techniques that benefit the client(s).


Special Needs and Supplemental Needs Trusts

Families with children or family members with disabilities or special needs want to provide for those children or family members without draining their assets, estate and the inheritances of their other children and family members.

Supplemental Needs Trusts and Special Needs Trusts are established for disabled individuals who are receiving publicly funded benefits, such as Medical Assistance (Medicaid) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Supplemental Needs and Special Needs Trusts allow parents and family members to benefit their children and family members with disabilities or special needs by supplementing and managing their resources while maintaining their eligibility for public assistance benefits.

If the Special Needs or Supplemental Needs Trust is properly drafted, funded, and administered, the assets within the trust will not be deemed available to the disabled or special needs child or family member and will not disqualify the disabled or special needs child or family member from receiving public benefits such as Medical Assistance and Supplemental Security Income. Supplemental Needs and Special Needs Trusts allow the trustee to distribute assets for goods and services that public benefit programs do not already provide. The trustee of a Special Needs or Supplemental Needs Trust can pay for the needs unique to the disabled person that are not provided for by public assistance programs, such as education, special medical procedures, entertainment and travel.

Special Needs Trusts
Special Needs Trusts are funded with the disabled or special needs person or family member’s own assets, such as through an inheritance or injury settlement they received. If the disabled person or person with special needs receives these proceeds directly, he or she will no longer qualify for government benefits. Therefore, the proceeds should be distributed or paid directly into a Special Needs Trust to be used for the disabled person’s benefit.

A Special Needs Trust must be established by the disabled or special needs person’s parent(s), grandparent(s), legal guardian, conservator or the court. Upon the trust beneficiary’s death, any remaining assets and funds in the trust must be used to first pay back the State of Minnesota for public benefits received and any remaining funds are distributed as directed by the trust document.

Supplemental Needs Trusts
Supplemental Needs Trusts are funded with assets belonging to someone other than the person with the disability or special needs or their spouse, such as by that person’s parent(s) or grandparent(s). A Supplemental Needs Trust is established by someone other than the person with the disability or special needs, the spouse of the person with the disability or special needs or anyone obligated to support the person with the disability or special needs. The funds of a Supplemental Needs Trust are available to pay for the trust beneficiary’s lifetime needs that are not provided for by public assistance programs. At the trust beneficiary’s death, the remaining assets and funds in the trust are distributed as directed by the trust document and there is no requirement to pay back the government for benefits received by the trust beneficiary. As a result, a Supplemental Needs Trust can be especially important part of a family’s estate plan.


Wills

A “Last Will and Testament”or “Will” allows an individual(the “Testator”) to control what happens to their estate, which is comprised of their assets, money and property, after their death. The Will enables the Testator to ensure that their assets are distributed pursuant to their wishes.  The Will also enables the Testator to nominate a personal representative or executor to administer their estate and distribute the estate’s assets after the Testator’s death.  A properly drafted Will expressly and clearly specifies the following:

  • The name and relationship of the personal representative(s) and successor personal representatives the Testator wants appointed to administer and distribute their estate;
  • The names of the individuals and/or organizations receiving estate assets;
  • The identity, amount or proportion of the asset(s) each person or organization receives; and
  • The name and relationship of guardian the Testator wants appointed to care for his or her minor children;

In order to create a legal Will in Minnesota or any state in the United States, the Testator must:

  • Be at least 18 years old;
  • Be of sound mind to make a Will. Generally, this means the Testator knows and understands the composition of their assets and property and that they are conveying all of their property and funds to the beneficiaries named in their Will;
  • The Will must be in writing;
  • The Will must be signed by the Testator, by another person at the Testator’s direction and in the Testator’s presence, or by the Testator’s conservator pursuant to a court order;
  • The Will must be witnessed by at least two people, both of whom must also sign the Will; and
  • The Testator must intend for the document to operate as a Will.

Although it is not required in Minnesota or any other state in the United States, the Testator should make his or her Will a self-proved Will because it helps to establish that the Will was properly executed in the event the Will is contested in court.  A Will is self-proved when the Testator and witnesses acknowledge in affidavits that the Testator signed and executed the Will voluntarily, within the presence of at least two witnesses, that Testator is over 18 years old, not under undue influence, and of sound mind.