Dementia & Guns: A Deadly Combination

01.12.2022 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

There is a side to gun ownership that is not often discussed: what happens when a gun owner is no longer capable of safely owning or using his or her guns?

It is tragic when an individual with dementia ends up shooting a loved one.

Individuals who develop dementia frequently experience hallucinations or have times where they do not recognize the people around them.  This can be especially problematic if the individual has access to guns.  The individual may incorrectly believe someone they know is a stranger and that he or she needs to defend themselves.  It is tragic when such an individual ends up shooting a loved one.  In West Virginia, a grandfather with dementia thought he saw intruders entering his home, so he grabbed his Glock that he kept under his pillow and shot his wife and granddaughter.  The granddaughter was able to call for help, but the grandmother did not survive. 

Unfortunately, this can and does happen not only in other states but also right here in Minnesota. For families of loved ones with dementia, we commonly grapple with the question of when to take the car away.  Families should also discuss when the guns should be removed from the home or stored in a secure location for safety purposes.  This is a difficult conversation and the loved one may be in the denial stage of dementia.  In situations like this, families may need to involve the courts to initiate a proceeding to have the individual’s guns confiscated. 

Decide what to do with your firearms.

To prevent court intervention, families should engage in the conversations early on in an individual’s diagnosis so that the individual can be involved in deciding what to do with the firearms, to whom the firearms should go after they pass, or whether to voluntarily give them up.  For caretakers and family members, it is best to get this plan in writing and signed by the person when there is a voluntary relinquishment of the firearms.  This will be helpful in the future should the individual forget about the arrangement and make accusations that someone stole the guns.

Families may be forced to deal with this situation before they can bring caregivers or home health into the home.  Such agencies have policies that require that any firearms or weapons in the home be removed before their employees can come to the home.  By having a plan in place and removing the guns before there is a need for home health care or in-home assistance, families can avoid additional stress. 

If your family has a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia, be sure to speak with physicians, elder law attorneys, or care coordinators to help you understand the ins and outs of what is to come. 

Our elder law concierge service at Henningson & Snoxell provides family with a personal touch to help navigate the chaos that comes with a loved one with a dementia diagnosis. Please reach out to see how we can help you and your family through this challenging time.


Rachell L. Henning

Rachell Henning is an Elder Law attorney that brings a wealth of personal and professional experience to her practice.  From an early age, Rachell has been dedicated to assisting elderly individuals and individuals with disabilities to live their lives to the fullest.

Elder Law | Estate Planning | Family Law | Rachell Henning

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Estate Planning For Snowbirds

12.03.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

               It’s that time of the year when Minnesotans head south for the winter to enjoy the warmer climate in states such as Florida, Arizona, and Texas.  If you are one of these lucky people, while you may not be establishing residency in these states, it is still essential to have a proper estate plan in place if something happens while you are on your extended vacation.

               If you have a Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, and/or Health Care Directive in place, reviewing those documents before heading south for the winter is a good idea to make sure your plans and wishes are current.  If you do not have an estate plan, getting something set up, even if it’s just incapacity documents, is better than having nothing expressing your decisions.

               It’s important to remember that even though you may be living in another state for months at a time, you would still be considered a Minnesota resident.  Therefore, your estate plan documents should reflect Minnesota law.  However, your estate plan should also consider assets and regulations in the state you are wintering in, as that state’s laws may dictate what would happen if you become incapacitated or deceased.

First step: Ensure Incapacity Documents

               First, you should ensure that your incapacity documents are up to date. Incapacity documents include Health Care Directives and Powers of Attorney. It’s essential to have a Health Care Directive that is general in nature, meaning it’s not applicable in only one state or with a specific wellness provider.  Often health care providers will equip patients with a Health Care Directive, and while that Health Care Directive is helpful, it may not be accepted by another provider. For example, if you are in Florida for the winter and become incapacitated, your primary provider’s Health Care Directive on file in Minnesota may not be recognized at the Florida hospital you are being helped at. A properly executed Health Care Directive should be applicable in states outside of Minnesota and with nearly any medical provider.

               Power of Attorney is another vital document to have in place.  Minnesota has a statutory power of attorney document that can be utilized anywhere in Minnesota (financial institutions, real estate transactions, etc.). However, if situations arise where the attorney-in-fact (your designated agent) attempts to deal with a financial institution, real estate company, or government agency in another state, in that situation, the Power of Attorney based in Minnesota may not be accepted since it is specific to Minnesota law. 

Therefore, it’s also crucial to have a Common Law Power of Attorney that is more general in nature. For instance, if you own real estate or have bank accounts in another state, the Common Law Power of Attorney should be effective in recognizing your attorney-in-fact to handle any transactions in that state where you are temporarily living. 

Next step: Ensure Will/Trust

               Lastly, you should always have a Will and/or Trust in place regardless of where you are residing.  These documents will ensure that your assets will be distributed per your desires upon death rather than be subject to that state’s laws.  You also want to make sure and nominate a Personal Representative/Executor who would be in charge of administering your estate.  Possessing a Trust could prevent the need for a conservatorship during your life and probate upon your passing.

Whether your assets would be subject to probate would depend on which state they were owned in and the value of those assets; a trust could prevent that regardless of the location and value.

               So while it may not be exciting to review or create your estate plan before leaving for the warmer climate, it is crucial to have documents in place so your loved ones can handle any issues that may arise due to any unforeseen event. Therefore, I would encourage you to ensure that everything is in place by contacting an attorney before heading south this winter.

Final step: Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney

Be sure to discuss with your attorney your Incapacity Documents along with your Will and Trust. Without having a Health Care Directive and/or Power of Attorney in place, your family could be left with a lengthy and costly court proceeding to get your affairs in order. These documents allow YOU to decide who you want to handle your medical and financial decisions, not the court.


Adam Kaufman is an attorney at the firm of Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd. located in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Adam helps individuals and families of all sizes and asset levels, by advising them and preparing: Wills Trusts Health care directives; and Powers of attorney.

Adam Kaufman | Estate Planning

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What are Transfer on Death Deeds (TODDs)?

08.03.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

What are transfer on death deeds (TODDs)?

The adage, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” often applies to Transfer on Death Deeds (TODDs).

A TODD is a deed that beneficiary designates a property to someone upon the owner’s death.  To be valid, a TODD must be signed/dated/notarized and recorded with the county recorder prior to the owner’s death.  Because a TODD doesn’t convey title to the property until the owner dies, the owner continues to own the property and can sell, gift, mortgage, and otherwise “enjoy” all aspects of property ownership without involving the beneficiary.  Assuming the owner still owns the property at his or her death, the beneficiary clears the owner’s name from title using an Affidavit of Identity and Survivorship and a certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate.  

Because the process to clear title from the decedent’s name is simple, expedient, inexpensive, and avoids the need for a probate proceeding, TODDs are used as estate planning tools.

What can go wrong?

The most common problem with a TODD is that the owner beneficiary designates more than one person as the beneficiary.  If the owner has 4 children and names all 4 children as beneficiaries, title vests in the names of all 4 children at the owner’s death.  This means all 4 children co-own the property and must work together to pay bills relating to the property and make other decisions about the property (e.g. whether the property should be sold or rented).  When the time comes to convey title, all 4 children and their spouses must sign conveyancing documents.

If all 4 children are cooperative adults with sufficient assets to cover the expenses relating to the property until it can be liquidated or become income-producing, they can make this work, but if a child is a minor, is an incapacitated or uncooperative adult, is deceased at the owner’s death, is an adult on government benefits, or is an adult in the process of divorcing or bankruptcy, for example, it’s very difficult and expensive to deal with the property.

Another common issue with a TODD is that title and also the financial obligations secured by the property vest in the name of the beneficiary at the owner’s death.  Most beneficiaries are happy to inherit the equity in a property, but they don’t want to inherit (and perhaps can’t afford) the financial obligations tied to the property!

For these, and other, reasons, a TODD is a tool in the estate planner’s toolbox, but it is only used when is appropriate, and then, upon good counsel.  

If you are interested in a TODD, ask your Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd. estate planning attorney whether it is a good fit for your situation.


Susan T. Peterson-Lerdahl

Susan T. Peterson-Lerdahl is a shareholder in the Maple Grove, Minnesota Law Firm of Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd. She is Chair of the firm’s Estate Planning Department and has years of experience counseling individuals and families in estate planning, elder law, probate and trust administration as well as family business succession planning.

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Estate Planning & Probate Litigation

07.08.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Estate planning and probate litigation

Estate proceedings are typically not litigated.  Sometimes, however, where there is a need for court oversight, for court approval, or for resolution of a contested dispute, they are.  Such litigation matters fall into one of two “camps” depending on the decedent’s estate plan and assets: 1) a contested probate administration, or 2) a contested trust administration.  Sometimes both are necessary.

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When Estate Planning, Don’t Forget Incapacity Documents!

06.29.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

When estate planning, don't forget incapacity documents

Most people associate “Estate Planning” with creating wills and trusts – in other words, planning for what happens after death. An oftentimes overlooked part of the estate planning process, however,  is preparing for incapacity. Incapacity is the physical or mental inability to manage your affairs. As important as it is to plan for your estate upon death, it is equally important to plan for what would happen should you lose mental or physical capacity.

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DIY Estate Planning

05.12.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

The pandemic has created a huge market for do-it-yourselfers in the home improvement space.

Many people have used extra time at home and the proceeds from stimulus checks to complete updates and remodels to their family’s space. With the help of Google and YouTube, some of us believe that we can gain the necessary skills to go from helpless homeowner to amateur carpenter (and save some money in the process).

Sure, installing a fancy new backsplash can be a learnable skill, but would you want to do your own electrical or plumbing? I think not! These types of specialized skills and tasks are best left to well-trained professionals.


So, why do some people believe in a DIY approach for their estate planning needs? There are a ton of online platforms and other tools available on the internet that market to the DIY estate planner. They offer fill in the blank forms that can be printed, completed, and signed with ease.

So why do you need a lawyer?

  • Do you know why certain situations require a Trust instead of a Will?
  • Do you have a solid handle on the ever-changing world of estate taxes?
  • Can you identify the differences between legal forms that are from one state or another, or perhaps that are current or outdated?
  • Do you understand the different roles of various agents, such as Personal Representatives, Trustees, Guardians, Health Care Agents and Attorneys-in-Fact?

Did you know that merely signing an estate or incapacity planning document may not be enough to make it legally binding? If not, you could be leaving behind a disaster of a “plan” that costs much more to fix than it would have cost to hire an estate planning attorney in the first place. Typically, a broken estate plan will require additional legal representation and the input of the Minnesota probate court to remedy an error or fill in a missing piece of information. This cost does not account for the frustration, time, and emotional burden placed upon the people you leave behind.

It is an estate planning attorney’s job to educate, plan for the unknown, and to ask questions you may not have known to ask yourself. When it comes to estate planning, there is no such thing as “one-size fits all”.  Contact an estate planning attorney at Henningson & Snoxell, LTD for the thorough guidance necessary to develop an estate plan tailored to your family’s circumstances and goals.

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Two Important Steps to Take When Your Child Turns 18

03.12.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Two important steps to take whey your child turns 18

It is the eve of your child’s 18th birthday, and you are thinking about all the exciting things that lie ahead—high school graduation, going off to college, that first job, or perhaps even planning a wedding. At Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd. we recommend you take a few minutes to think about what happens, legally, to your relationship with your child the minute your child turns 18.

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Estate Planning is for Everyone – a Testimonial

08.18.2020 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Estate planning is for everyone - a testimonial

The following is an unsolicited testimonial from Chuck and Connie D.


“We have attended a variety of seminars conducted by Henningson and Snoxell.  All the seminars have given us great information and tools to use.  The seminars are free and the takeaway information and understanding is amazing.

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