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FAQ

What does estate planning mean?

It is a process that clearly spells how your entire properties/assets will be transferred to your mentioned beneficiaries after your death. Being a personal issue, it varies from one planner to another.

What are those things making up an estate because I don’t think I have any to plan for?

You sure do have an estate. You are only looking at it from a lay man’s definition of having vast lands and other properties. The term “estate” is a broad one involving all your existing assets especially those having your name as their seal. This could be personally-owned property or those jointly shared with others such as real estate, bonds, stocks, bank accounts, jewelry, car and furniture. Other things like entitlements (outstanding loan, inheritance and tax refund) are parts of your estate. In the same vein, your retirement payments/accounts as well as your life insurance dividends are your estate. In sum, whatever it is you can place your name on as “mine” in actual sense or potentially is your estate.

Is estate planning and will the same thing?

The answer is yes and no. I can rightly say that estate planning is an umbrella term because it involves a lot of tools. A will is a subset of an estate plan or part of the tool of estate planning. Estate planning is a broad term that is used to describe all forms of arrangement covering the distribution of your assets to designated beneficiaries during one’s lifetime or after death. There is this general belief by most people that estate planning is limited to just the writing of a will. This is quite wrong because while it involves will in its extensive process, there are other things involved like living trust, prenuptial agreement, durable power of the attorney, life insurance, HIPAA release, living will and business succession plan.

Do I really need this estate planning?

To start with, everyone needs estate planning including you, irrespective of the number of asset you might have now. Estate planning is designed for all categories of people either single or married. The earlier you plan for it the better and more peaceful your future.

Why do you think I need estate planning?

Well, there are lots of advantages that go with estate planning. Failure to plan ahead of unforeseen situations can expose you to unpalatable circumstances. One of such is the appointment of someone to manage your health care and assets by the judge. This is the situation of many today. Apart from being bedridden from a chronic sickness, death is inevitable. No one can tell when he/she is going to die, and since you are not sure either, there is the need to put all necessary arrangement in place. Failure to plan can also lead to the distribution of your assets to your heirs in accordance to intestate succession principles or set of rules. If you plan your estate so well before your demise, it will only be distributed to your designated heirs but without a plan, the state will give preference to your family members and distribute your property. The demerit here is that people that are far from you may be considered; for example, your spouse’s relatives. How would you feel if you your property are given to people you wouldn’t have included in your plan as heirs? With estate planning, you are in control of who should benefit and enjoy your labor instead of some strangers.

How Much Does Estate Planning Cost?

Your decision to embark on a plan can normally trigger this question, which is acceptable considering the state of global finance and your tight budget. But, no professional will tell you the cost out rightly without first listening to your needs first, and the type you want to undertake. The cost of each category differs so, if the price of one is on the high side, you can for a cheaper alternative. You must be wary of promoters who will give you an outright cost.

What is trust?

Any law related arrangement that entails the management of your assets on behalf of your mentioned beneficiary (ries) by a third party also known as trustee is a trust.

Which trust should I opt for?

Your question shows you have understanding of various types of trust. I cannot tell which suits you from a glance because a lot of factors need to considered before embarking on any particular one. You will need direct consultation with an experienced attorney who will guide you appropriately.

What does probate mean?

Any legal process that comes up after the death of an individual is a probate. It entails proving in the court the validity of the will left behind by a deceased person, identifying as well as taking inventory of the property of the deceased individual, appraising the property, taxes and debts payment and the distribution of the deceased property according to the details contained in a will.

Is the entire probate process simple or complicated?

It is neither simple nor complicated. It depends entirely on your state law and other factors like the level of estate complication such as sorting out piles of receipt and papers, paying debts, gathering assets and filling tax returns, the number of property to be disposed (sold), the presence of lawsuits against estate, absence of will and difficulty in getting the designated beneficiaries for the estate if there is a will and a lawsuit challenging a will. The entire process can be simplified by a will that is properly drafted, regularly updated to reflect changes, debts that are well organized as well as the right order of both personal and other assets.

From your experience, what is the estimated duration of a probate process?

While one cannot tell a particular time or duration a probate process will last, depending on the factor surrounding it, it may range from 3 months to years. In California, for instance, the process lasts 9 months if all things are in place, but if there is lawsuit or other similar challenge, you can be sure of longer time as some complicated ones may last decades.

How can I avoid probate?

There are factors you have to consider before planning to avoid probate. They are: your wealth, health and age. If you are already in your old age, experiencing ill health and having large assets, you can discuss with your attorney to help you plan to avoid probate but if otherwise, you might altogether forget it because you might have to do it again to incorporate changes in your situation. For all your estate planning questions, the Leventhal Law Group, P.C has answers to them as you can always have free and no obligation consultation with a qualified attorney. Call 818-347-5800 for a free consultation today!

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