Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


1. What is an Estate Plan?
Estate planning is the act of arranging your assets to be dispersed according to your wishes after your death. This can be accomplished through a single document, such as a Will, or a series of documents, Wills and Trusts, for more complicated plans. 
2. Who may make an Estate Plan?
Generally, an individual of sound mind can create a Will at the age of majority for their state, usually 18. Some states allow for persons under the age of 18 to create a Will depending on certain criteria. 
3. What happens upon my death if I do not have an Estate Plan?
By not creating an Estate Plan, you are electing to have your assets dispersed according to your state's Intestacy laws. Intestacy laws are a state’s statutory succession laws that determine who gets what of your assets at your death, regardless of your wishes, if you have no Will or Trust. A court will also appoint the individual who is to administer your estate regardless of your wishes. This can be avoided by creating an Estate Plan. 
4. What is a Will?
A Will is a document that allows you to lay out who is to receive your assets at your death, and to appoint the individual you would like to administer this plan. A Will can also contain other provisions related to carrying out your wishes after death. A Will must be “activated” by the probate court before it is able to be administered.
5. What assets does my Will cover?
A Will covers most of your assets, but it will NOT include assets such as pension plans, 410(k) plans, life insurance policies, annuities, or property held through “Trust.” These assets pass to the named individual or individuals on the plan or policy upon your death. The plan or policy could name your “estate” as the beneficiary, which would then give your Will the ability to control the asset. Property owned as Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship also passes outside the Will. 
6. How long is a Will valid?
A properly executed Will will remain valid until it is intentionally revoked, or a new Will revoking all previous Wills is executed. A change in marital status, such as divorce, may also effect provisions of a Will.
7. What is a Personal Representative or Executor?
An Executor or Personal Representative is the individual or entity you choose to carry out your wishes through your Will. The terms vary by state, but can generally be used interchangeably. 
8. Can I revoke my Will?
Yes. You can revoke a prior Will, if you are of sound mind, by destroying it or tearing it with the intention of revoking it. A prior Will can also be revoked by executing a new Will specifically revoking all prior Wills. 
9. What is a Living Will, and if I have one, do I need a Last Will and Testament?
A Living Will is a healthcare document similar to a “Do Not Resuscitate” form that lays out what medical treatment a person is willing to accept when they are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. Also called an Advance Directive. 

This document is not a Will and does not direct the administration of your estate after your death.
10. What is a Trust?
A Trust is a legal entity, created through a signed document, which allows an individual (settlor) the ability to give property to another individual or entity (trustee), with the duty for that to use that property for the benefit of another individual or entity (beneficiary), as laid out in the document. These duties can be set up to fulfill a wide range of needs for the beneficiary as determined by the settlor.

A Trust can be used in place of a Will, with the added benefit of not having to “activate” the document upon death. The Trust becomes active at the time of execution. This allows for the avoidance of the probate process, which can be time consuming and create discontent among the deceased’s family.
11. What is “funding” the trust?
When a Trust is created, it is essentially an empty entity, meaning you have not put any assets into the Trust yet. To transfer assets into the Trust, or “fund” the Trust, you must retitle assets into the name of the Trust. 
12. What is a Pour-Over Will?
A Pour-Over Will is established in connection with a Living Trust so that any assets that were not put into the trust during your life are transferred into it at your death.
13. What is a Health Care Power of Attorney?
A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a legal form that allows an individual to empower another with decisions regarding his or her healthcare and medical treatment.
14. What is a Property Power of Attorney?
A Property Power of Attorney is a legal form that allows an individual to empower another to manage and access your property and business interests in the event you are unable to do so yourself.
15. Definitions
Assets – the different types of property you own.

 

Attorney in Fact – is an individual, named in a Power of Attorney, which has the legal right to act on behalf of the individual that created the Power of Attorney. This individual does NOT need to be an attorney. 

 

Beneficiary – an individual or entity that is named to receive a portion of your estate in your Will or Trust.

 

Chose in Action - a comprehensive term used to describe a property right or the right to possession of something that can only be obtained or enforced through legal action.

 

Estate – all of the assets you own, collectively. 

 

Executor or Personal Representative – the individual or entity you choose to carry out your wishes through your Will. The terms vary by state, but can generally be used interchangeably. 

 

Guardian – an individual with the legal duty to protect the best interest of another individual, such as a minor child.

 

Intestacy Laws – the statutory laws of a state dictating how your estate will be dispersed if you die without a Will or Estate Plan. 

 

Probate – the court process of activating a person’s will so that their wishes can be carried out. 

 

Settlor – an individual that creates a trust.

 

Testator or Testatrix – this is the person creating a will.

 

Trustee – an individual or entity that administers the Trust.
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