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Estate Planning

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is working with an attorney to plan ahead for your family for when you pass away or if you become disabled. Together you will discuss your family’s needs and what legal documents will best meet your needs.

Why can’t I just do my own will?

You can. Many of the online form documents are comparable to what an attorney would draft for you. However, online services will only give you what you ask for. There may be other things that your family may need or want. For example, if you have your adult children as beneficiaries on your IRA, distributions to them will be heavily taxed. If you set up a trust and have your children be the beneficiaries, they will be taxed at a much lower rate. Every case is different but just having a will may not give your family the greatest benefit.

What is elder law?

Elder law covers planning for the legal needs (medical assistance, housing etc.) for a family member who is elderly or becomes disabled.

What is a will?

A will is the legal document that instructs the probate court how you want your property distributed after you pass away.

What is probate?

Probate is a court proceeding where the probate court follows the instructions in the will or the state law that governs how your property will be distributed after you pass away. Probate can be a long and expensive process. This can be avoided with various legal documents that you sign ahead of time. If I have a will does this avoid needing to probate my estate? No, however planning ahead and signing various legal documents ahead of time can avoid the need to probate your estate. Probate can be a long and expensive process. Planning ahead can save your family this delay and expense.

What is a trust?

A trust is a way of owning property where someone else (the trustee) controls the property. Trusts can avoid a number of legal problems that can arise when someone passes away or becomes disabled. An example is a trust for the benefit of minor (under 18 year old) children. If you pass away and your property goes to your minor children, the person who will be taking care of your children (the guardian) will have to go to court each year and justify whatever has been spent to raise the children. On the child’s eighteenth birthday, he or she will get all of the remaining money with no restrictions or guidance. Setting up a trust ahead of time will allow the guardian to receive money from the trust to raise the children without the time and expense of reporting to the court each year. Also, you can set up restrictions such as delayed distributions (for example one half at age 21, one half at age 30) or paying college expenses.

What is a conservatorship?

A conservatorship is needed when someone becomes disabled and is unable to manage their finances and legal affairs (legally incompetent). Typically a family member asks the court to establish the conservatorship. This gives the legal authority to manage the disabled person’s business.

What is a power of attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document where you give someone else the legal authority to act on your behalf. If you become disabled and already signed a power of attorney, your family will avoid the time and expense of setting up a conservatorship.

What is a health care directive?

A health care directive gives someone else the legal authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate. This is also referred to as a living will or a health care power of attorney.

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