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Estate Planning FAQs

The following are some of the frequently asked questions we receive regarding estate planning and estate administration. Visit the links below to learn more.

What can a will accomplish?

How detailed should my will be?

Does a will ever expire?

What is the best place to keep a will?

What happens if I don’t have a will?

Does having a will avoid the probate process?

What are the differences between a will, a living will and a living trust?

When is it a good time to think about estate planning? 

 

What can a will accomplish?

A will serves two primary purposes. First, it names who will inherit your estate after you have passed on. Second, it gives instructions for what should be done following your death such as naming the person(s) whom you wish to care for your minor children.

How detailed should my will be?

As detailed as you wish. At a minimum, it should name your heirs, provide care instructions for minor children/dependents, and name a personal representative who will be responsible for managing and distributing your estate after you die.

Does a will ever expire?

No. Your will be the final word unless it is changed or revoked. However, it can be helpful to review your will periodically, especially if you have divorced, been married or have remarried, or have experienced a death or a birth in the family.

What is the best place to keep a will?

Your will should be kept in a safe yet accessible place. It is important to tell your family members and personal representative where you keep your will and how to access the document. Many people choose to keep their estate planning documents in a safe at home or in a safety deposit box.

What happens if I don’t have a will?

If you pass away without having a will, your estate will have to go through the probate process to determine who should inherit your assets. Probate laws vary from state to state, but in general your spouse and children will be first in line to inherit your estate. If you are not married and have no children, your next of kin family members will be first in line. This process of distribution may or may not reflect your actual wishes.

Does having a will avoid the probate process?

Not always. If there is property to be administered or if there are taxes that need to be paid on your estate, it is likely that it will still need to be submitted to probate. However, it may be possible to avoid probate if your property is held in a trust.

What are the differences between a will, a living will and a living trust?

As noted above, a will provides instructions for distributing your estate and names guardians for your minor children. A living will provides instructions for how you wish to receive medical treatment should you ever become incapacitated such as stating whether or not you wish to be kept on artificial life support. A living trust operates much like a will; however, it can be amended at any time and your estate will not be required to pass through probate. A living trust is also kept private, while the information in your will is made public at the time of your death.

All three documents should be considered as part of having a comprehensive estate plan.

When is it a good time to think about estate planning? 

The best time to put together an estate plan is when you are still relatively young and of sound mind. Many people choose to start thinking about their estate plan after they have married or when they have started a family. An estate plan can address many different topics, including medical decisions to be made on your behalf if you were to become incapacitated, the individuals who will inherit your property or care for your minor children, and more.

For additional questions, contact attorney J. Jeffrey Press today.