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Wills and Trusts FAQs

Why do I need a will or trust?

A person who dies without a will risks their assets being distributed based on the state laws set in place, called intestacy laws. While this tends to include spouses, children, parents, etc., if you die intestate, there is no negotiating this matter and your assets will be divided according to the law. Your loved ones will have to guess your intentions, and navigate the process without any guidance. Such a situation can often cause rifts in families and may even lead to litigation.

What is the difference between a will and a trust?

One of the first steps in estate planning is to determine if you need a will or a trust. Everyone is different. A will is a document that has to be probated through the court system upon your death and does not go into effect until that time. A trust is a document that exists during your lifetime and has assets transferred into it. There are advantages and disadvantages to both documents. This is a complicated question, and one of the main reasons you need an attorney to advise you about your estate.

Why do I need a lawyer to draft a will or a trust?

Every state has its own estate laws. Anything you find on-line may or may not be a legally sound document. An attorney will advise you from a legal standpoint, draft legally sound estate planning documents which will be enforceable after your death, and which will ensure your wishes are fulfilled as to the division of your estate.

What is my estate?

An estate is comprised of all the things you own – your home, car, furniture and other possessions, checking and savings accounts, life insurance, retirement, investments, and so forth. Estate planning refers to the process of determining how you want your estate divided and distributed at the time of your death. 

When is a good time to start planning my estate?

It’s never too early to start planning your estate. First, you should account for all of your assets and decide whom you want to inherit them after your passing. You may want to consult with a financial professional. The sooner you decide what you want to do, draft legal documents with your lawyer, and discuss your intentions with those who will inherit your belongings, the less likely it is that there will be disagreements once you are gone.

What do I need to have in order to go through the estate planning process?

It would be helpful for your estate plan to include the following: Will, possibly a trust, durable power of attorney, beneficiary designations, healthcare power of attorney, advanced medical directive, and executor, guardianship and trustee designations.

How does going through a divorce impact my will or trust?

Your will or trust must be replaced or updated after certain life events including divorce. This is essential in ensuring that your assets are divided how you want them to be after your death.

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