Estate Planning FAQ
What is a trust?
A trust establishes a person's rights to real or personal property which is held in a fiduciary relationship by one party for the benefit of another. The trustee is the one who holds title to the trust property, and the beneficiary is the person who receives the benefits of the trust.
A trust is a form of property ownership. The person who sets up a trust is called the "grantor" or "settlor." The trustee is the "legal" owner of the trust property, and her name is on any document of title. The beneficiary is the person who receives the benefits of ownership, such as the right to receive the income from the trust’s investments.Go Back
What is a Living Trust?
A "living" or "inter vivos" trust is one that is set up and funded while the grantor is alive. Usually the grantor names his or her self as both trustee and beneficiary. In contrast, a trust which comes into being under the terms of a will, after the grantor's death, is called a "testamentary" trust.Go Back
How does a trust avoid probate?
When an estate is conveyed through a Will, the probate court must validate the Will before its provisions can be executed. The probate process can require up to two years. Assets held in a Living Trust, however, are not subject to probate. The advantages of avoiding probate are several.
- Expedited distribution: A Living Trust allows assets to be distributed to your heirs as quickly as your trust agreement instructs and the taxing authorities allow, without the additional delays of probate. Your spouse, for instance, could receive income to provide for living expenses immediately.
- Expense reduction: The expenses of probate are completely avoided for all assets held n your Living Trust.
- Privacy and confidentiality: When a Will is entered into probate, all of its provisions become a matter of public record. Since a Living Trust is a private arrangement, its terms are not made public at your death. Your assets and intentions are known only to your trustee and beneficiaries.
What is a will?
A will is a written statement directing who will wrap up your financial affairs, and who will receive your money and other property, when you die. The property left in your name at the time of your death is called your "estate." The ones you name in your will are entitled to receive your property upon your death are called "legatees." They may or may not also be your "legal heirs."
After all of your remaining financial business is resolved, the remaining money or other property can be distributed to the legatees named in your will. Money and property held in joint tenancy ownership, such as a bank account or house, goes automatically to the surviving co-owners upon the death of one owner. Similarly, property held in trust, or in a payable-on-death account, goes automatically to the named beneficiary upon the death of the owner. Life insurance proceeds go automatically to the named beneficiary on the death of the insured person. These types of property are not affected by your will.Go Back
What does a will accomplish?
A carefully structured will is your most reliable guarantee that distribution of your assets is conducted according to your wishes. In addition, your will:
- Allows you, if your family includes minor children, to specify who will assume responsibility for their upbringing as well as the manner in which you wish them to be raised
- Presents the most reliable way of communicating any special intentions you desired
- Provides the best means of indicating who should receive items and family heirlooms that hold sentimental value
Do I need a will?
You may believe that you don't need a will. Perhaps you assume that a will is unnecessary since states laws exist that, absent a will, govern the division and distribution of your assets after your death. Or, you may feel that the size of your estate doesn't warrant a will.Go Back
What happens if I die without having a Will?
Not having a will means that you:
- Surrender to the state all important decisions affecting the well-being and future security of your heirs
- Are at risk of having your property divided in a way that's not to your liking
- Forego opportunities to reduce taxes through trust arrangements
When should I review my existing Will?
Your will may be changed as often as you wish. If the change you desire is relatively simple, an amendment to the document, known as a codicil, is executed with the aid of an attorney. If you decide to write a new will altogether, the new document should specifically revoke all prior wills.
In addition, you should review your will when any of the following events occur:
- A change in marital status
- The birth of a child
- A change in your state of residence
- A significant change in the value or character of your assets
- A change in intended beneficiaries
- The death of a beneficiary
- The death of a guardian, trustee, or personal representative named in your will
- A change in tax laws affecting federal estate tax deductions and calculations
- Once every five years
If you believe a change to your will is necessary you should consult an attorney who is familiar with the probate code of the state in which you live. He or she will know how best to comply with various state requirements.Go Back
What special planning should I do for my special needs child?
Our Estate Planning Attorneys assists families in planning for disabled children, or other family members who are, or are likely to become disabled, and who require special protection. Through the use of special needs trusts, asset planning and coordination of private and public resources, our experienced attorneys help families to maximize resources and enhance quality of life for loved ones.
For experienced legal representation in estate planning matters, contact our estate attorneys or call at (850) 434-8904.Go Back
Do I need an estate plan?
Our Estate Planning Attorneys provide experienced and personal estate planning and probate services to all clients in Pensacola and Milton, regardless of the size of their estate. Our experienced estate planning lawyers are committed to providing the individualized services and timely response that are essential to meeting each client's personal needs.
Whether you are younger or older, married or single, a parent or without children, you need to invest in an estate plan. There is a lot to be gained by you and your loved ones through estate planning; moreover, even more can be lost if you don't.
Estate planning is the process by which an individual or family arranges the transfer of assets in anticipation of death. An estate plan aims to preserve the maximum amount of wealth possible for the intended beneficiaries and flexibility for the individual prior to death.
Estate planning is much more than having a will. Proper estate planning will avoid the chaos and wasted assets of an unplanned estate, enhance your sense of security, and provide a dimension of personal well-being to your loved ones.
Wills and trusts are common ways in which individuals dispose of their wealth. Trusts, unlike wills, have the benefit of avoiding probate, a lengthy and costly legal process that oversees the transfer of assets.Go Back