Estate Planning, Wills, Trusts, and Probate
The process of estate planning can be intimidating and confusing, but it's essential in protecting your family and the things you work so hard for. By partnering with a Tran Law Group estate planning attorney, you get all the information and proper guidance to be sure you are taking advantage of the best options available today for you and your family.
We can help you assess your needs and work with you to create a plan that meets your personal, family, and business requirements. Our team will analyze your financial picture and provide you with a written plan to achieve all of your estate planning needs and goals. Our focus is on empowering you to provide for your family in a tax-efficient manner while protecting your assets and complying with all government rules and regulations. When you are ready to begin planning your estate you first need to consider these five questions:
1. Whom do you want to receive assets?
You can leave your assets to anyone: family, friends and organizations. When determining who should receive your assets, think about how much and when. A benefit of estate planning is that you can be specific about how your assets are distributed, even when you are no longer here.
2. Who should administer your estate (such as managing and distributing assets)?
This person will need to sell your assets, if necessary, and/or distribute them per your written instruction.
3. Who should care for minor children, and how do you want your children raised?
For parents, this is often the hardest question to answer. A few things to keep in mind: The person caring for your child(ren) does not need to be the same person managing your assets, and you can specify the type of life you want your child to have.
4. Who will provide any needed continued management of assets for those you want to provide for?
When created properly, an estate plan can provide you control over the assets you've worked so hard to acquire even after you are gone. You will want to think about who will properly manage money and other assets in ways consistent with your directions.
5. What is your plan in the event of incapacity?
Planning for incapacity is probably one of the most important aspects of estate planning and is often overlooked. Make sure your plan accounts for both management and distribution of assets when you die but also if you become incapacitated. Without the proper documents in place and people named, the court will need to step in and name a guardian who can then make financial and medical decisions for you.
Estate Planning FAQs
1. What is a Will?
A Will is a document a person signs to arrange for the disposition of their assets after death according to their wishes. Wills have no legal authority until the willmaker passes away and the original will is delivered to the Probate Court.
2. What is a Living Will?
Sometimes called an Advance Medical Directive, a living will allows a person to state their wishes in advance regarding what types of medical life support measures they prefer to have, or have withheld/withdrawn if they are in a terminal condition (without reasonable hope of recovery) and cannot express their wishes their self.
3. What is a Revocable Living Trust?
This is an agreement with three parties: the Trust-makers, the Trustees, and the Trust Beneficiaries. For example, a husband and wife may name themselves all three parties to create their trust, manage all the assets transferred to the trust, and have full use and enjoyment of all the trust assets as beneficiaries. Further "back-up" managers can step in under the terms of the trust to manage the assets should the couple become incapacitated or die. Special provisions in the trust also control the management and distribution of assets to heirs in the event of the trust maker's death. With proper planning, the couple also can avoid or eliminate death taxes on their estate. The Revocable Living Trust may allow them to accomplish all this outside of any court proceeding.
4. What is Probate?
Probate is the process of administering deceased persons estate, resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's assets under a will. First ,a petition must be filled. Then, usually within 2 weeks, a probate court judge decides if the will is valid and grants its approval. The probated will then becomes a legal instrument that the executor may use to legally enforce the will and fulfill any obligations of the estate.
5. What is Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship?
Also known as "Tenancy by the Entirety" in some states when between spouses, this is the most common form of asset ownership between spouses. Joint tenancy (or TBE) has the advantage of avoiding probate at the death of the first spouse. However, the surviving spouse should not add the names of other relatives to their assets. Doing so may subject their assets to loss through the debts, bankruptcies, divorces and/or lawsuits of any additional joint tenants. Joint tenancy planning also may result in unnecessary death taxes on the estate of a married couple.
6. What does Intestacy mean?
If you die without a Will (intestate), the legislature of your state has already determined who will inherit your assets and when they will inherit them.
7. What are Beneficiary Designations?
You may avoid probate on the transfer of some assets at your death through the use of beneficiary designations. Laws regarding what assets may be transferred without probate (non-probate transfer laws) vary from state to state. Some common examples include life insurance death benefits and bank accounts.
8. What is a Durable Power of Attorney and when do I need one?
These allow you to appoint someone you know and trust to make your personal health care and financial decisions even when you cannot. If you are incapacitated without these legal documents, then you and your family will be involved in a probate proceeding known as a guardianship and conservatorship. This is the court proceeding where a judge determines who should make these decisions for you under the ongoing supervision of the court.