Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is Estate Planning and Why is it Important?
Estate planning is the process of arranging the management and disposal of a person’s estate during their life and after death. It's important because it ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, helps reduce any potential legal issues for your heirs, and can provide peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in order.
2. What’s the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?
A will is a legal document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of any minor children upon your death. A trust, on the other hand, is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary. Trusts can offer various benefits like avoiding probate and can be effective both during your lifetime and after your death.
3. What is Probate and How Can I Avoid It?
Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s estate is properly distributed to heirs and designated beneficiaries and any debt owed to creditors is paid off. Avoiding probate can often be achieved through proper estate planning tools like trusts, joint ownership, and designated beneficiaries on accounts.
4. Can I Change My Estate Plan Once It’s Set Up?
Absolutely. Estate plans should be reviewed and possibly updated due to life changes such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, a significant change in financial status, or a move to a different state. It's important to consult with your estate planning attorney to make sure your plan reflects your current wishes and legal requirements.
5. Why Should I Consider a Lawyer for Estate Planning Instead of Doing It Myself?
While DIY estate planning options exist, working with a skilled attorney ensures that your estate plan is tailored to your specific needs and complies with current state laws. An experienced estate planning lawyer can provide valuable guidance on complex issues like tax implications, asset protection, and ensuring your wishes are legally binding.