Frequently Asked Questions
It all sounds confusing to most.
Wills? Trusts? Revocable? Irrevocable? Probate? Powers of attorney?
Here are some answers prepared by our attorneys.
Estate planning is the term used to broadly describe the practice of preparing your estate to pass to your chosen beneficiaries upon your death and to allow for its management in the case of your incapacity prior to death. Your estate is comprised of all of the assets that you own- real property, bank accounts, investment accounts, business interests, annuities, life insurance, cars, jewelry and any other tangible or non-tangible items. Proper estate planning will eliminate the confusion and much of the hassle surrounding the administration of your estate. It will reduce, if not eliminate, any potential estate taxes. If you have minor children, proper estate planning will also ensure that their guardianship is given to someone that you trust to raise and care for your children properly.
Finally, proper estate planning will secure your own care should you become incapacitated and unable to manage your own financial or personal affairs before your death. There is no level of wealth or family structure that ever qualifies a person to participate in estate planning; it is recommended for everyone. At a minimum, every living adult should have a valid Will, a Durable Power of Attorney for asset management and an Advance Health Care Directive.
Most people know that a Will is a document that a person writes or has written naming the beneficiaries and Executor of his or her estate. Movies tend to make it appear that a Will is simply read in an attorney’s office after a person’s death, and that is the end of it. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. A Will is in essence a letter to a judge and, in almost every case, its only legal purpose is to serve as the voice of the decedent in Probate Court. It directs the judge as to who should be appointed as Executor and how to distribute the assets of the estate, as expected. However, a well drafted Will also instructs the judge as to who should be appointed as the guardian of minor children, whether or not the Executor should be required to post bond, what powers and level of court supervision the Executor should have in administering the estate, and at what age and upon what terms and conditions the assets of the estate should be distributed to the beneficiaries, among other things.