Probate and Planning


The process of planning ahead for the end of life is something that many want to avoid. Although planning for such a time may not be comfortable, it is an important step to help those who will care for you and your affairs. In fact, some people find it reassuring to know that they have prepared a will to direct how their property should be allocated, or a health care directive to tell their family and caregivers about the medical treatment they want.

These issues and more are discussed in this handbook, Probate and Planning: A Guide to Planning for the Future. The book addresses wills and the probate process. Next, it describes living trusts, conservatorships, and powers of attorney. Finally, it addresses health care directives and planning a funeral.

This publication contains some legal or technical words that may need further explanation. You may want to scan the Glossary Of Terms before reading ahead.

Table of Contents

The following is a table of contents for the Probate and Planning Handbook. You may click on the headers for more information on that topic.


  • What Is a Will?
  • Does Everyone Need a Will?
  • What Rules Apply to Wills?
  • What Is a Self-Proved Will?
  • What Is in a Will?
  • Can I Leave My Spouse or Children Out of My Will?
  • What Is a Personal Representative?
  • What Is a Guardian?
  • How Do I Prepare a Will?
  • How Do I Change or Update a Will?
  • Where Do I Keep a Will?


  • What Is Probate?
  • When Is Probate Necessary?
  • What Items Are Not Subject to Probate?
  • How Do I Probate an Estate?
  • How Will the Estate Be Distributed to Heirs?
  • What Taxes Must be Paid?

Living Trusts

  • What Is a Trust?
  • What Are the Basic Types of Trusts?
  • What Are the Pros and Cons of a Revocable Living Trust?
  • How Do I Establish a Trust?
  • What Is the Role of the Trustee?

Conservatorship and Guardianship

  • What Is Conservatorship and Guardianship?
  • What Is the Difference Between a Conservatorship and a Guardianship?
  • What Are the Duties of a Conservator?
  • What Are the Duties of a Guardian?
  • Does a Conservator or Guardian Have Absolute Power and Authority?
  • Why Might I Need a Conservator or Guardian?
  • How Do I Establish a Conservatorship?
  • What Are the Advantages of a Conservatorship?
  • What Are the Disadvantages of a Conservatorship?
  • What Are the Alternatives to a Conservatorship or Guardianship?

Power Of Attorney

  • What Is a Power of Attorney?
  • What Is a Durable Power of Attorney?
  • When Should I Use a Power of Attorney?
  • How Much Power Does a Power of Attorney Have?
  • How Do I Create a Power of Attorney?
  • What Happens if I Don't Have a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances?
  • When Does a Power of Attorney End?

Health Care Directive

  • What Is a Health Care Directive?
  • Why Might I Need a Health Care Directive?
  • How Do I Prepare a Health Care Directive?
  • What Should I Include in My Health Care Directive?
  • What Are the Limits on My Health Care Directive?
  • How Do I Change My Health Care Directive?
  • When Does My Health Care Directive Take Effect?

Planning A Funeral

  • How Should I Plan My Funeral?
  • How Should I Pay for My Funeral?
  • What Safeguards Exist for Consumers Who Pay in Advance?


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Seniors Legal Rights

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Living Trust Mills

With the aging population, many people are thinking of estate planning. You should steer clear of "living trust mills," which hold themselves out as estate planning specialists but churn out boilerplate documents for a high fee, all to get their foot in the door to sell you annuities or insurance products later on.

Avoid Estate Sale Scams

Estate sale companies appraise, price, and sell the personal property of people who have passed away or wish to downsize their households. These companies are not required to be licensed or bonded in Minnesota so it can be difficult to sort out reputable estate sale companies from untrustworthy ones, and consumers are encouraged to take precautions when selecting and contracting with estate sale companies.

This brochure is intended to be used as a source for general information and is not provided as legal advice.

Probate & Planning: A Guide to Planning for the Future is written and published by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.

This handbook is available in alternate formats upon request. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office values diversity and is an equal opportunity employer.