Q: What does Estate Planning mean?
A: Estate Planning is the process of designating who will receive your assets and handle your affairs after your death or incapacitation. An Estate Planning Attorney can help you determine the best legal documents to accomplish your Estate Plan. Your Estate Plan will likely include a Will, a Durable Power of Attorney, and an Advance Care Directive (also called a Living Will). It may also be to your benefit to have a Revocable or Irrevocable Trust.
Q: Why do I need an Estate Planning Attorney?
A: There are several benefits to hiring an Estate Planning Attorney, including saving yourself time and having the peace of mind that your documents comply with current law. Read more here.
Q: Isn’t Estate Planning expensive?
A: It does not have to be, we try to keep our prices affordable so everyone can have an Estate Plan. We also do most Estate Planning on a Flat Fee basis. Our pricing and billing process is designed to be as transparent and easy to understand as possible with upfront pricing and no hidden fees.
Q: Does Estate Planning help avoid Probate? Why does that matter?
A: Yes, if you have the right Estate Plan in place, your Estate may be able to avoid a probate after your death. Additionally, Estate Planning can save your heirs the burden of not knowing what you want done with your property, and avoid costly and emotionally draining legal battles amongst your heirs. Simply put, Estate Planning can save money and time, and help make things easier on your family.
Q: How often should I have an Estate Planning Attorney review my Will, Trust, and overall Estate Plan?
A: You should have your Estate Planning documents reviewed every year. Life changes every day, and your Estate Plan needs to be updated each time something significant happens. You should have your Estate Planning documents reviewed anytime you have a life change, such as a marriage, divorce, birth of a child or grandchild or a financial change. You should also have an Estate Planning Attorney review your Estate Plan when any of your beneficiaries has a life change.
- You may have wanted your house to go to your son and daughter-in-law when you wrote your Last Will and Testament, but now they are divorced, and you do not want to leave anything to your former daughter-in-law.
- You gave your sister a Durable Power of Attorney and designated that she was the person that could make decisions about your property or health in case you were incapacitated. Now she is deceased, and so your Durable Power of Attorney is now no longer effective.
A regular review of your Estate Planning documents by an Estate Planning attorney can help avoid these types of issues.
Q: What is a Last Will and Testament?
A: A Last Will and Testament, more commonly referred to as a Will, is typically prepared by an Estate Planning Attorney and is the legal document that explains and communicates what you want to happen to your property after your death, among other things. It also names a Personal Representative , the person that will be responsible for managing your property during probate and making sure the property is given to the persons you named in your Last Will and Testament.
Q: What happens if someone dies without a Last Will and Testament?
A: If the deceased person does not have a Will, then the State of Oklahoma has statutes that determine the people that inherit the deceased person’s property. These statutes are called the laws of Descent and Distribution and can be found at 84 Okla. Stat. Ann. § 213. Often heirs are surprised to learn that property does not always go to the people that the deceased would have wanted, or expected if left to the State to decide. This is why it is important for everyone to make a Will, so their property goes to the people of their choosing.
Q: Can’t I just make my own Will online?
A: Yes. However, consider that this is quite possibly one of the important legal documents that you will have in your lifetime. If you have taken the time to do a Will, you most likely want your Will to be followed. When you have the help of an Estate Planning Attorney to prepare your Will, you will ensure that your will is legally valid. Also, consider that online forms can include hard to understand language that can result in your property not being left to the correct individuals. In contrast, the more simplistic online forms may not have all of the language you need in your Will to devise all of your assets correctly. An Estate Planning Attorney will make sure that your Will reflects your intentions, and you can have peace of mind that you did not accidentally leave your property to the wrong person.
In addition, online Wills are often a source of costly probate litigation after death because of a failure to follow correct procedures or devise assets correctly and can result in emotionally and financially costly legal battles by your loved ones. Avoid this by having one of our Estate Planning Attorneys draft your Will.
Q: What is a Revocable Trust or Living Trust and what are its advantages?
A: A Revocable Trust, or Revocable Living Trust, or Living Trust is a legal document that provides for the management of your property and it becomes effective while you are still living, unlike a Will which takes effect after your death. You will name a Trustee of the Trust (often the initial Trustee is yourself), and Successor Trustees that will take over if the initial Trustee can no longer serve. The Trustee will manage the property for your benefit during your life or if you are incapacitated. After your death you may direct that the property in the Trust be distributed to the persons of your choosing, or you may have your Trust continue for many more years with the final distribution at a later time.
Advantages of a Trust
- A Trust is more flexible than just having a Will.
- A Trust can help your heirs avoid probate.
- A Trust can be distributed quickly after your death.
- A Trust can continue on after your death, for the benefit of your spouse, children, or any other beneficiary you choose.
Q: I already have a Trust; do I need a Will?
A: Yes, consider your Will like a safety net, to catch anything the trust may have missed.
Q: How can a Trust help my loved ones avoid probate?
A: Once you have a Trust drafted, you need to title the assets in the name of your Trust. Any assets owned by the Trust will not have to be probated.
Q: Are there other alternatives to a Will or a Trust?
A: Yes, there are other options to give your property to a loved one after your death, including a Transfer on Death Deed or titling the property in Joint Tenancy, or giving the property while reserving a Life Estate. Additionally, bank accounts and other personal property may allow a Payable on Death or allow a designated beneficiary. When we prepare an Estate Plan, we consider all of the available alternatives to a Will and a Trust.
Q: What is a Living Will or Advance Care Directive?
A: A Living Will, also called an Advance Care Directive tells others about your medical care choices if you are unable to make decisions on your own. It will designate whether you want artificial interventions such as respirators or other life support machines.
Q: What is a Power of Attorney?
A: This document gives a trusted individual the right to make decisions on your behalf. If you do not have one and become incapacitated, your family may have to do a costly guardianship to manage your affairs. A Power of Attorney typically becomes invalid upon your incapacitation or death. However, a Durable Power of Attorney is effective even when you are incapacitated.
Q: What is a Health Care Power of Attorney?
A: This document gives a trusted individual the ability to make health care decisions on your behalf, and make sure your Advance Care Directive is followed.
Q: What is a Medical Power of Attorney for a Minor Child?
A: This gives a trusted individual the power to take your children to the doctor and make health care decisions on their behalf. These are important for single parents, or if you are sending your children to stay with friends or relatives.
Q: What is a Financial Power of Attorney?
A: This document gives a trusted person the ability to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf. A durable Financial Power of Attorney can allow your loved ones to pay bills and handle financial matters should you become sick or incapacitated.
Call us today at (405) 285-6858 to schedule a consultation with an Estate Planning attorney.