(1) QUESTION: Why do I need an estate plan?
ANSWER: To ensure that your hard-earned wealth will pass intact to those you intend to be your beneficiaries.
(2) QUESTION: What is the difference between a Will and a Living Trust?
ANSWER: A Will is a legal document that describes how you wish your assets to be distributed at death. The actual distribution process, however, is controlled by a legal process called probate via the court. This can take up to a year to complete and generally requires your beneficiaries to hire an attorney to assist with the process. Assuming that all of your assets have been titled in your Living Trust, or have beneficiary designations, a Living Trust avoids probate by placing your property in the trust and assigning a successor trustee. Upon your death, whomever you named as successor trustee distributes your assets according to your instructions.
(3) QUESTION: Is a Living Trust only for the wealthy?
ANSWER: No. A Living Trust can help anyone protect his or her family from unnecessary probate fees, court costs, federal estate taxes, and more.
(4) QUESTION: Why should I use an estate planning attorney versus using another type of attorney or going on-line to create my document(s)?
ANSWER: Estate planning attorneys focus their practice on wealth transfer and concentrate their continuing legal education on the current changes in any law affecting estate planning. This allows them to provide you with significant value in the form of advice regarding which estate planning options are best for you and your family, rather than just providing you with documents.
(5) QUESTION: What is the significance of the term “durable” in a power of attorney?
ANSWER: The term “durable” when paired with “power of attorney” means that the powers granted in the document survive the disability of the document’s maker. A power of attorney that is not durable ceases to be valid as soon as its maker is disabled.
(6) QUESTION: What is a Living Will?
ANSWER: A Living Will is a document in which a person nominates someone else to make the decision whether life-sustaining procedures should be used to prolong his or her life.
(7) QUESTION: What is a Designation of Health Care Surrogates?
ANSWER: A Designation of Health Care Surrogates allows a person or persons of your choosing to make medical decisions for you if you cannot. It covers decisions on issues that may arise before you are terminally ill—such as admission to a hospital, operations, and transfusions. It does not authorize someone to make the decision to terminate life-sustaining procedures.
(8) QUESTION: What is the benefit of using an estate planning attorney with tax law education?
ANSWER: At this time, the estate tax laws are in a state of transition and an estate planning attorney who has additional education regarding the tax laws is better positioned to advise you of the various laws’ impacts on your estate plan.
(9) QUESTION: What is the cost to prepare an estate plan?
ANSWER: Each estate plan is unique, with the fee based on your specific needs. Your attorney will provide a fee quote based on those needs. The decision to proceed is then yours.
(10) QUESTION: How often should an estate plan be reviewed?
ANSWER: Important changes in your life such as marriage, birth, divorce, changes in net worth, etc., demand immediate review. Otherwise, estate plans should be reviewed every 2 – 3 years.