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Frequently Asked Questions

This is where you will find most answers. If there should still be any questions left, don’t hesitate to contact us.
What is estate planning?

Estate planning is a process involving the counsel of professional advisors who are familiar with your goals and concerns, your assets and how they are owned, and your family structure. Estate planning covers the transfer of property at death, as well as a variety of other personal matters, and may or may not involve tax planning.

What is a will?

A will is a legal document that spells out your wishes regarding distribution of your assets after your death. It can also include your wishes regarding care for your children.

Do I need a will?

Everyone needs a will, whether you have a trust or not. Failure to prepare a will leaves decisions about your estate in the hands of judges or state officials and may also cause unnecessary family conflict.

With a will you can be clear about who gets your assets, who gets what and how much. You can also keep your assets out of the hands of people you don’t want to have them.

It is important to note, however that a will has to be filed with probate court and reviewed and approved before anyone named in the will can act on your behalf and then ultimately distribute the assets to your heirs. A will does not avoid court, which is actually a common myth that we run across.

What happens if someone dies without a will?

Dying without a will means that someone has died intestate. If you pass away with no will in place state law will fill in the gaps and dictate who gets what. This means that you will not go to decide who gets your assets, but the state will make thosedecisions for you. This may include who gets to care for your minor children andmanage their assets until they are old enough to take care of themselves.

What is a trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement that can provide incredible flexibility for the ownership of certain assets, thereby enabling you and your heirs to achieve a number of significant personal goals that cannot be achieved otherwise. Plainly put, a revocable living trust is a written document that determines how your assets will be handled after you die.

A critical difference between a will anda trust is that a will has to be filed with the probate court, reviewed, and approved before anyone can act under it or receive assets from your estate. A trust is a completely private document. No one is entitled to see it, except those who are named in it, and the successor trustee named in your trust can act immediately, without having to go to court, file anything, or get permission first.

Unlike a will, a trust can also provide for management of your property and use of the assets for your benefit (and that of your family) if you should become incapacitated, thereby avoiding an appointment of a guardian for that purpose.

Is a trust only for the wealthy?
No, trusts are for all individuals regardless of their net-worth. Many young parents with limited assets choose to create trusts either during life or in their wills for the benefit of their children in case both parents die before all their children have reached the adulthood. Trusts permits the assets to be held for the support and education of minor children according to their respective needs with the eventual division at a later time.
A trust can also provide for continued management or your property and assets for your benefit if you should become incapacitated, thereby avoiding an appointmentof a guardian for that purpose.
Do I actually need an estate plan?

In almost every instance when asked, “do I really need an estate plan?”, the answer is yes! The reality is that no one knows when you will die, become incapacitated or have an emergency where you need someone to act on your behalf. Estate planning is important for all stages in your life.

Estate planning can minimize taxes and expenses and help your loved ones avoid legal hassles.

What is a living will / advance directive?
A living will is your written expression of how you want tobe treated in certain medical circumstances. Depending on state law, this document may permit you to express whether you wish to be given life-sustaining treatments in the event you are terminally ill or injured, to decide in advance whether you wish to be provided food and water via intravenous devises, and to give other medical directions that impact your care, including the end of life.
What is a Healthcare Proxy or “Durable medical power of attorney”?
This is similar to a durable power of attorney, but this is specifically designated to cover medical treatment. You will appoint a personand grant him/her/they the authority to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to express your preferences about medical treatment. Most commonly, this situation occurs either because you are unconscious or because your mental state is such that you do not have the legal capacity to make your own decisions.
Do I need healthcare directives?
It is important that you make your express wishes known regarding your preferences concerning medical treatments in an extreme medical situation where you cannot communicate, including at the end of your life. By making these express wishes known in written legal documents, you are ensuring that your preferences are made known. In addition to allowing your physician to make treatment decisions based upon your own express wishes, you are making the decisions for yourself so that your family does not have to guess about what you would want. Making your wishes known in advance prevents family members from making hard choices at what likely will be one of the most stressful times in their lives.
What is probate?
Probate is the formal legal process that gives recognition to a will and appoints the executor or personal representative who will administer the estate and distribute assets to the intended beneficiaries. It is important to remember that probate is in fact court and everything filed with the court is public.

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Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.