Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
It’s an unavoidable fact that someday we will die and someone is going to deal with our assets. A will is a document that instructs who that someone is and how he or she is to distribute your assets. You only need a will if you have any assets—or things—you want to pass on.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Estate Planning & Why Is It Needed?
Most people often assume that they don’t have an estate or assets, but everyone has an estate, whether they know it or not. Estate planning is just putting on paper what the person wants to do with their possessions.
Unfortunately, most people never do anything in regards to estate planning, and these decisions get put on a spouse or a child to handle. It’s important to appoint someone to be in charge. If you fail to plan ahead, there can be legal litigation, when a judge will make the decision of how your estate will be divided.
What Happens to Someone’s Assets When They Pass Away Without an Estate Plan?
Each state has a statutory plan for that situation. Those plans get tweaked periodically, but generally, if there’s only a first marriage, and all of the children belong to both spouses and then one spouse dies, the entire estate goes to the surviving spouse.
However, if there are multiple parents or beneficiaries, the surviving spouse will get a certain amount from the estate but then must divide everything else with the children. When you get into what the surviving spouse is allowed to keep and what goes to the children, it often ends up in litigation.
How Often Should Someone Review Their Will or Estate Plan?
Most estate plans are drafted to take care of future situations that may occur. However, an estate plan can’t foresee changes in the law or major changes in the family structure, like death, divorce or disability. It’s wise to have periodic reviews with an attorney.
What Are the Basic Items in an Estate Plan? What Do They Do?
Powers of Attorney
An estate plan has two broad objectives: who can help you while you’re still alive, and how your estate is disbursed after you die. The first objective is dealt with by using powers of attorney.
There’s a financial power of attorney, which gives someone the ability to help write checks or take care of an individual’s financial dealings. There is also a healthcare power of attorney, which deals with the medical decisions in the event you’re unable to make those decisions yourself.
Guardianship or Conservatorship
A power of attorney is actually not expensive at all to draft if it’s done while you’re competent; otherwise, a court case may have to be filed, and the court would appoint someone to make those decisions for you. This is called guardianship or conservatorship.
Wills & Trusts
The other part of an estate plan generally includes a will and a trust. One of the goals in setting up an estate plan is to avoid probate.
In the last 25 years or so, simple trusts have become very popular. A typical family will have a house and maybe some investments or bank accounts to put into a simple trust to avoid probate. Of course, there’s always a will, and it accompanies the trust to take care of everything that didn’t get put in the trust.
Work With a Trusted Estate Planning Attorney
I’m a highly experienced estate planning attorney and, rest assured, I’ll make sure everything’s done correctly. I have published many articles to help those in need of understanding these difficult issues: