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Frequently Asked Questions about Estate Planning

Frequently Asked Questions about Estate Planning

What happens if I die without a will or trust?

The state in which you reside will appoint an administrator to decide who receives your assets, barring jointly owned property and beneficiaries you have listed on bank and retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and investment accounts.

Can I draft my own will?

Estate planning is a complicated process with many federal and state laws you may be unaware of that could negate your intentions. Even the slightest miswording could invalidate your will. Consulting with an estate-planning professional is recommended.

What’s the difference between a will and a living will?

A will specifies where your assets will be directed after your death, while a living will outlines your health care

preferences should you become incapacitated. Living wills have evolved throughout the years to address a variety of concerns, including bathing, grooming, and pain management preferences, as well as spiritual or religious assistance. You can also indicate funeral and disposition of body preferences.

I have verbally discussed my medical preferences with my family. Do I still need a living will and health care proxy?

While it’s beneficial to discuss your preferences with loved ones, a living will and health care proxy ensure that your wishes are carried out in spite of dissenting opinions from family members.

What should I include in my estate-planning folder?

In addition to your will and living will, you should include the following:

  • Titles to your property and vehicles.
  • Copies of insurance policies, safe deposit box keys, and retirement, bank, and investment accounts.
  • Names and numbers of everyone you want your family to contact in the event of your death: advisors; any clubs, associations, and social groups you belong to; service professionals; health care providers; creditors; etc.
  • Instructions for locating your online accounts and passwords.

I’m not wealthy — should I still consider a trust?

If you have a special-needs child or spouse, a financially irresponsible heir, or even younger heirs, a trust may be a good option. Trusts can place stipulations on how and when an inheritance is spent and prevent loved ones from either becoming disqualified from government benefits or losing their inheritance to creditors. Furthermore, a trust keeps the details of your estate private and shields your family from the probate process.

How often should I have my estate plan reviewed?

Your estate plan should be reviewed every two to three years to ensure it evolves with any changes in your life — whether the birth of a child or grandchild, the death of a spouse or heir, a divorce, a move, or changes with your chosen appointees.

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