Things to Consider When Contemplating Estate Planning

For many people, making estate plans is an easy thing to put off. After all, it is appealing to believe there will be plenty of time down the road for that sort of thing, and it can be uncomfortable to think about one's mortality. But, none of us knows just when our time on Earth will end, and if a well-crafted estate plan is not in place, we could potentially leave tangled messes for loved ones to figure out without any guidance or instruction. In addition, getting your affairs in order can bring you peace of mind.

Before meeting with an estate planning attorney, it is helpful to think about a few issues. A skilled lawyer will discuss key matters with you and help you through the estate-planning process, but it is important to have sufficient time to consider your wishes.

Choosing a Personal Representative

Probate is the process through which property is distributed under the terms of a will. Through probate, a judge will determine whether your will is valid, interpret its language, approve and appoint a personal representative, and address the claims of heirs or others with potential interests in your assets. Because there could be people with legal interests in your estate that are not named in your will, probate proceedings are public.

A personal representative (sometimes called an executor) plays an integral role in the probate process and should be carefully selected. A personal representative is tasked with paying off debts and taxes as well as handling the distribution of your property to those named in your will. It is beneficial to ask your desired personal representative if he or she would be willing to serve before finalizing your selection in your will.

Creating Trusts

For some people, avoiding the potential expense and publicity of probate is desirable. For these individuals, trusts can be powerful tools

A trust is an arrangement under which a "trustee" manages and holds title to some assets on behalf of one or more beneficiaries who receive distributions of the trust's assets or income from the trustee. Trusts can be set up for formation when you die, or a "living trust" can be established during your lifetime.

Trusts sometimes help people avoid both probate costs and estate taxes. As with a will, you can determine in advance who will be given the important fiduciary role of trustee. For the trustee position, people sometimes choose a trusted friend or relative who is good with money; otherwise, people often choose to utilize a corporate trustee with professional experience in money management.

Before consulting with an estate planning lawyer, compile a rough list of all your assets and debts. With this information, an attorney can help you decide whether a will, trusts or a combination of the two are best for your circumstances.

If you would like to learn more about estate planning or are interested in creating a will, contact Alfred Polizzotto, III, Esq. to discuss your estate-planning needs.