Time is too valuable to waste worrying about life’s what if’s.

There are many considerations which need to be carefully evaluated in crafting an estate plan. The cornerstones of any plan require considerations involving age, marital status, children and the nature and size of the estate.  The following are some of the typical concerns regarding estate plans.  

What are some of the basic requirements in creating a Will?

A Will must be in writing, must be signed by the creator of the Will and must be witnessed by two persons.

Does a new Will need to be created every time a person relocates to a new state?

Not necessary, however, every time a person moves to a new state there needs to be attention paid to the fact that each state has its own laws pertaining to estate planning and estate administration upon death.  Relocating to a new state should include establishing a relationship with a professional in that state and learning whether changes to the estate plan are recommended.

Who handles the administration of a probate estate on behalf of a decedent?

A probate estate is administrated by a person referred to the personal representative. This person is nominated in the Will of the decedent and has the responsibility to handle all administrative duties

What happens if a person dies without a Will?

The laws of intestacy applies when a person dies without a Will.   These laws specify who has priority to be appointed personal representative of the probate estate and further provides for the distribution of the assets of the estate to beneficiaries upon the completion of administration.

What are some primary considerations for someone who has minor children?

The principal consideration is who will be responsible for the care and upbringing of a child should both parents become deceased.   The Will should clearly specify who will be responsible as guardian for underage children.   There should also be considerations as to setting up trusts to hold funds for minor children to cover the cost of college and to be distributed to them when they reach an age when their judgment is sound.

Can gifts be made under a Will to minor children or grandchildren?

Yes, however gifting to minor children or grandchildren should be addressed with a professional who can offer advice on setting up trust to hold the gift until the desired age is achieved.

What are some concerns for someone who is in a second marriage and he or she wishes to provide for the surviving spouse upon death and yet provide for children by a prior marriage?

This would present a situation where proper trust planning is in order.  A trust can be set up to care for the deceased surviving partner and provide for children by a prior marriage.

What should be a primary focus as a couple approaches their golden years?

When a couple finds themselves in their post retirement years there should be particular attention paid to having proper powers of attorney created to allow one of the couple to handle the affairs of both.  And there should attention given to having medical powers of attorney and living wills created to allow either of the couple to assist in the health care needs of the other.

How often should an estate plan be reevaluated by a professional?

The mere passage of time does not require a new estate plan to be prepared, however, if there are changes in life circumstances the plan should definitely be reevaluated.  These would be changes such as the death of family members, the acquisition of new or additional property, the birth of new family members and grave health concerns. 

Is the size of an estate or the type of property owned by a person important in estate planning?

Yes the size and nature of an estate is very important because there are sometimes unique laws pertaining to specific kinds of property such as land, pension accounts, investment accounts and savings accounts.   It is best to have a professional evaluate the best way to coordinate all of property in such a way that the estate can be administered efficiently and that the property will ultimately pass to the desired beneficiaries.

Is it important to consider life insurance as part of an estate plan?

While life insurance does typically pass through the probate process, it is important to consider having adequate insurance to create the liquidity to pay estate claims and expenses.  For instance, if a person dies owning primarily real property it is necessary to have liquid assets to address estate expenses and claims without having to quickly sell real estate to create the desired liquidity.

When an estate plan is created is it important that an attorney coordinate with other professionals such as certified public accountants, investment managers and insurance professionals?

Yes, the attorney should be aware of the other professionals and coordinate efforts so that the plan efficiently carries out the desires of the person creating the plan. 

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