Estate Planning Questions

Do you offer a free consultation?

We offer a free sit-down consultation with all estate planning clients.  This provides us the opportunity to get to know you and provide a recommendation for your estate plan.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is more than just having a will in place.  Estate planning addresses several key issues, including: what happens to your assets when you pass away; how your children are cared for when you pass away; who makes medical, financial, or legal decisions for you if you are incapacitated; and whether your family will have to deal with the court system and probate process.

Is estate planning only for the wealthy?

No.  Estate planning is important regardless of the size of your estate.  In fact, without estate planning, you and your family will spend much more money on court costs and other fees.  We work with a wide range of clients, from those with modest estates to business owners and real estate developers.

What happens to my minor children if I pass away?

If you pass away with minor children and neither legal parent is still alive, a judge will determine who the guardian should be for your children.  If you would like to make this determination, instead of a judge, you have to appoint a guardian for your minor children in a will or similar document.

Do I need a will?

A will generally does the following three things: (1) appoints a guardian for any minor children; (2) appoints a personal representative to manage the estate; and (3) determines how probate assets will be divided.  Although a will is beneficial to have in place, it may not accomplish all of your estate planning goals.

Does a will help me avoid probate?

A proper estate plan can keep many assets out of probate, but having a will by itself won’t avoid all the expenses and delays of the court-driven probate process.  Rather, a will provides a set of instructions to the probate court judge as to how your estate should be handled.

Do I need a revocable living trust?

A revocable living trust is an alternative to a will that provides greater flexibility and helps keep your assets out of the court system and the probate process.  A revocable living trust is recommended if you have a complicated estate, own a business, own multiple pieces of real estate, own real estate in multiple states, have a complicated family situation, are in a second marriage, or desire to avoid the probate process.  We can help you determine whether a revocable living trust is right for you.

Do I need a health care directive?

If you are incapacitated and can no longer make your own medical decisions, a health care directive does two things for you: (1) appoints a health care agent to make medical decisions for you; and (2) provides specific instructions as to your health care wishes.  Without a health care directive in place, your family may have to go through an expensive formal guardianship proceeding to determine how these same decisions will be made.

Do I need a power of attorney?

A power of attorney allows you to appoint an attorney-in-fact to make legal or financial decisions on your behalf.  A power of attorney can be used for convenience or to address incapacity (when you can no longer manage your own finances).  Without a power of attorney, your family may have to go through an expensive formal conservatorship proceeding to determine who will manage your finances.

What different types of trusts are there?

There are many different types of trusts.  Testamentary trusts, often times called “support trusts,” can be used to protect assets for minor children or other beneficiaries who may not be able to manage assets on their own.  A cabin trust can be used to ease the transition of real estate from one generation to the next.  An irrevocable trust can be used to protect certain assets from creditors or reduce the amount of estate taxes owed.  A supplemental needs trust or special needs trust can be used to provide for a child, or other family member, with a mental or physical disability. Our estate planning attorneys can assist you in determining which type of trust best suits your needs.

What type of tax planning is required for my estate plan?

Depending on the value of your estate, tax planning can be a critical component of your estate plan.  Similar to income taxes, estate taxes occur both at the state and federal level.  Because the tax laws around estate planning are always changing, it is important to work with an estate planning attorney to make sure that you minimize or avoid estate taxes.

What can I do to protect my cabin in the event of my death?

The family cabin is often the most important asset in someone’s estate.  Therefore, estate planning is critical to ensure the cabin stays in the family.  Proper planning around the family cabin can reduce conflict, protect the cabin from creditors, and make sure the cabin stays in the family for generations to come.  We work with families to keep the cabin in the family.