Plan for Your Future.
Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning
Glossary of Estate Planning Terms
- Beneficiary: The person or entity who receives property in accordance with a will, trust, insurance policy, retirement account, or other third-party beneficiary contract.
- Estate Tax: A tax on the transfer of property after death. This is levied by the state and/or federal government. An estate has the obligation to pay estate tax.
- Marital Deduction: An unlimited gift tax deduction or estate tax deduction. This type of tax law allows an individual to give assets to his or her spouse with reduced or no tax imposed upon the transfer.
- Power of Appointment: The power granted to a person allowing him or her to dispose or designate who is to receive certain property under the will.
- Probate: The judicial process which determines the validity of a will in a court of law and the martialing and distribution of the deceased’s estate.
- Trustee: The individual or entity that acts as the legal owner of the trust assets. They are responsible for handling any of the assets held in trust, tax filings, and distribution of the assets according to the instructions of the trust.
- Will: A legal document that identifies where your assets should be distributed after your death. This also gives you the ability to nominate guardians for dependent children. Without a will, the courts determine what happens to your assets and decides the legal responsibility for your kids.
What is estate planning?
Estate planning is a process involving planning for the transfer of an individual’s property after death. It involves the counsel of professional advisors, who are familiar with your desires and concerns, your assets, and family structure.
It may involve a will and / or trust and the services of a variety of professionals: your attorney, accountant, financial planner, life insurance advisor, banker, and broker.
What is my "estate"?
An estate may contain real property (real estate, houses, or investment properties) or personal property (bank accounts, securities, jewelry and automobiles, etc.).
What is the estate planning attorney's role?
A lawyer’s role in estate planning involves advising clients as to the options available and recommendations to accomplish clients’ objectives and assisting clients with drafting and implementing legal documents, including trusts and wills.
While lawyers are not required in order to plan your estate, it may be best to work with an estate planning attorney in ensure that your wishes are carried out. This is especially true if your estate is large, complex, or contains unusual assets.
Do I need an estate planning attorney?
While it may be possible for individuals to draft some estate planning documents on their own, it is important to consult with legal professionals to ensure that your estate is administered as you would wish.
What is a will? What does it do / not do?
Why should I have a will?
When should I get a will?
If you are married, have children, or have a positive net worth (assets exceeding $100,000), it’s almost always easier on your family to have a will or trust in place.
What happens if I die without a will?
While intestacy laws vary, in general, each state’s laws provide a list of the decedent’s next of kin in the order while they will receive a portion of the estate. This process typically goes: spouse, children, parents (in the event the individual is single and childless), siblings.
What is a "living will"?
How do I get a will?
- Decide what property to include in your will.
- Determine who will inherit your property.
- Choose an executor to handle your estate.
- Choose a guardian for your children.
- Appoint someone to manage your children’s property.
- Make your will.
- Sign your will in front of witnesses.
- Store your will in a safe place.
Should I hire a lawyer to help me draft a will, or can I do it myself?
In preparing your will, it is important to meet certain basic procedural requirements; such as making sure you have witnesses when signing the necessary documents. With the proper research, it is possible to draft a valid estate plan yourself if your assets and instructions are relatively simple.
What information and documents should I gather before I contact an attorney to prepare a will?
You may also be required to list your advisors, such as your banker, accountant, investment dealer, and insurance agent.
How much does writing a will typically cost?
What is a trust?
Trusts are established to provide legal protection for the trustor’s assets, to make sure those assets are distributed according to the wishes
What is the difference between a will and a trust?
What is a "living trust"?
What is a revocable living trust?
Revocable living trusts are “living” because you make them during your lifetime and can change or cancel the provisions at any time.
Power of Attorney:
What is a Power of Attorney?
Will my Power of Attorney expire?
You should periodically meet with your lawyer to revisit your power of attorney and whether your choice of agent still meets your needs. In addition, some financial institutions require updated powers of attorney in order to be honored.
Who should be your agent?
What if I move?
What is probate?
Should I avoid probate?
What is probate property vs non-probate property?
In comparison, non-probate assets bypass the court process and go directly to your beneficiaries based upon the form of title or a beneficiary designation. They don’t require a probate court order to pass the title.
Proxies / Advance Medical Directives:
What is a health care proxy?
How do I get a health care proxy?
What is a living will / advance health care directive?
This living will is a set of instructions or an expression of wishes and desires that specifies the use or non-use of medical treatments and procedures that would artificially prolong life.