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Wills & Trusts

Estate Planning estateEstate Planning involves planning for management and disposition of your property while you are alive and after your death. It also includes planning your personal and health care needs in the event that you are unable to provide for such care yourself. Depending on the situation it may also involve financial, tax, medical and business planning. The extent of your Estate Planning will depend on your particular situation.

In forming your Estate Plan, you should consider the following:

  • Your family and its specific needs.
  • The nature and extent of your property.
  • Who should administer your Estate after your death?
  • Who shall have legal authority over your children if you pass away while they are minors?
  • How Federal Estate Taxes can be minimized or eliminated.
  • Who should receive your life insurance and retirement benefits upon your death?
  • Who should manage your Estate upon your death, or in the event you become incapacitated.

Wilcox Law is able to assist and advise you on these areas of estate planning:

  • Trusts and Trust Administration
  • Wills
  • Medical and Financial Powers of Attorney
  • Probate Matters

Mr. Wilcox is highly experienced in estate planning and routinely seeks continued education in this area to ensure he is up to speed on the latest changes to the law.

Below you will find some basic information about estate planning. Please don’t hesitate to contact Wilcox Law free of charge to ask any questions or to set up a free initial consultation.

 Revocable Living Trust

A Revocable Living Trust is commonly referred to as a “Living Trust”. This is a written agreement between the people creating the Trust (Settlor) and the person or institution who is to manage the assets held in the Trust (Trustee). You create a Trust by executing the agreement and by transferring your assets into the Trust. Generally speaking, the Revocable Trust allows you to amend or totally revoke or cancel it at any time during your lifetime as long as you are mentally competent to do so.

Often the major purpose of a Revocable Trust is to avoid Probate. Probate is a Court supervised process where the Courts seek to ensure that the decedent’s (person who passed away) creditors are paid prior to transfer of assets to the heirs. The Probate process can extend from a minimum of approximately 5 months to several years depending on the circumstances.

Why does a Revocable Living Trust avoid Probate?

When you transfer your assets into the Trust, you technically no longer own anything since your Trust becomes the owner. So you personally have nothing to Probate when you pass away.

Do you lose Control of the property that you put into your Trust?

Since the Trust is prepared for Estate Planning purposes it is typically a “revocable” Trust, you remain in total control as long as you are mentally capable of doing so. You can revoke the Trust or amend it in any way that you see fit. Further, in a typical Estate Planning arrangement, you will be selected as the Trustee (or manager) of your Trust while you are able to act as Trustee. A successor Trustee is typically named to replace you if you are no longer able to perform your duties.

Benefits of a Revocable Trust

  • Avoid Probate
  • Federal Estate Taxes can be reduced or totally eliminated
  • Preserve Privacy
  • Professionally manage your own property
  • Avoid Guardianship when incapacitated
  • Designate Trustees and their successors
  • Avoid Will contests and family dispute

A Will is a legal document that outlines how you want your assets to be distributed upon your death. Here are some basic questions or concerns that past clients have had:

Who do you want to handle the distribution of your assets upon your death?

This person is commonly referred to as the Executor of your estate. This should be someone that you trust to carry out your wishes. Our office commonly asks for two or three people in the event somebody is unwilling or unable to handle the Executor’s duties.

What if I have minor children?

If you have minor children then our office commonly sets up parameters in your Will whereby people are designated to handle both the monetary issues and the care and custody of your children until they reach a certain age. Normally you will have to choose a person to handle the financial aspects of your estate until your children reach a specified age and this is called the conservator. A guardian is also named in your Will and this will be the person who is legally responsible for the care and upbringing of your child if you pass away.

What assets are included in a Will?

You can place anything that you want or own in the Will to be dispersed as you please. It is common for people to have items or heirlooms that they want to give (bequeath) to family members or friends and this can easily be accomplished through your Will. Also, you can leave either percentages or dollar amounts to specific people or you can donate your proceeds to charity. Our office will meet with you and discuss your various options on how to handle the disbursement of your assets so that when you pass their will be as little hassle to your loved ones as possible and your wishes will be clearly outlined for the executor to follow.

Can I include and exclude people from my Will?

Yes, you can include and exclude parties from your Will if you would like. However, if you omit or exclude a spouse there are usually legal issues that will arise and they will most likely still get a percentage of your estate. These issues can be discussed in further detail at the first meeting at our office.

Who handles my Will when I pass away?

The executor of your Will has to file paperwork with the court along with a copy of the original Will and a filing fee. This starts the probate process and there are several steps that need to be taken in order to formally disburse your assets. There is an order of priority on who can receive your money upon your death. For example, the funeral home, the attorneys, IRS and bill collectors will receive your money prior to your specified beneficiaries. The formal probate process can take several months depending on the facts of your case but our office will assist the executor upon request.

 Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney is a legal document that outlines your wishes upon you being incapacitated and unable to make decisions yourself. The medical power of attorney enables your loved ones to make decisions for you based on the criteria you set forth in your medical power of attorney. Our office commonly requests that you give a copy of your medical power of attorney to your family physician.

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney is a legal document that gives a designated person broad authority to handle your financial matters while you are incapacitated or unable to handle them yourself. This document gives the designated person power to handle your banking and pay your bills and ensure that your finances are kept in order on your behalf.

Probate Court is the branch of the courthouse that commonly handles issues regarding:

  • Wills
  • Contested Trusts
  • Intestate (people passing without a Will)
  • Guardianships
  • Conservatorships

Our office routinely handles these types of court matters and is ready to assist you with any of these challenging issues. Please contact our office to set up an appointment. There are a myriad of different motions that can be utilized in obtaining the necessary outcome depending on your specific situation.

 

Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Wilcox at any time if you have questions or to set up a free consultation.

 

DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this website is meant to be general, informative and educational. It should not be taken as specific legal advice to any particular problem or issue. Please consult an attorney personally to discuss your particular circumstances.