Jason Michael Law -
Wills & Trusts - An Overview
Imagine you are between thirty and fifty years old. You own a home in a nice neighborhood. You have two or three wonderful children. You have life insurance, decent health insurance, and a modest retirement plan. You have some money saved, but not enough to retire.  You are a busy responsible parent, but you don’t have a lot of extra time or money. Why do you need a will, trust, or estate plan? An experienced estate planning attorney can answer that question, as well as others you may have about your family’s financial future. 

Imagine you become ill or are seriously injured. Imagine you are so ill that you rely on a respirator and are fed intravenously for years. While you are ill your assets are used to help pay for health care you never wanted. Any additional assets you own are untouched. Your investments are not watched and your taxes are not paid. Your minor children are given a court appointed guardian you have never met.
Why You Shouldn’t Die Without a Will
Wills are the most basic element of estate planning. A will is a legal document that explains how you want your property and assets distributed after you die. It allows you to say who you want to carry out your wishes and gives you a chance to nominate a guardian for your minor children. A will gives you the last word upon your death Despite the control a will gives a person, about half of all Americans die without one. If you have questions about whether or why you need a will, an experienced estate planning attorney can help.
When you die without a will, you die intestate. If you die intestate the laws in the state where you live control distribution of your assets. The state may appoint a lawyer to oversee the distribution of your estate and that lawyer will be paid out your estate’s assets. The state may even claim your property if you have no apparent heirs. If you do have heirs, they may be forced to pay sizable taxes in order to keep the property you have left behind. The state will also appoint a guardian for your children without any input from you.
A Users Guide to Probate
Probate is the court-supervised process of winding up your affairs after death. Many people associate probate with large costs and even bigger hassles and think that the smart thing to do is to avoid probate. Contrary to this popular belief, the probate of most estates runs smoothly. The court’s supervision ensures that your outstanding debts, taxes, and claims against you are paid and that your remaining assets are divided among your heirs. Attorneys experienced in probate-law can explain the probate process whether you are planning for the future or involved in probate right now.
When you die with a will, or testate, the court makes it’s decisions regarding the winding up of your assets using your will as a guide. When you die without a will, or intestate, the court and the state make those decisions for you.
Death and Taxes: Planning for Both
When you die, the assets and property interests you leave behind are your estate. Every state has a court-supervised process for winding up your affairs and distributing the property left in your estate. This process is known as probate. Some of your estate may be excluded from probate through the use of joint property rights or the designation of a beneficiary on life insurance or pension plans. Thus, your probate estate might be quite small. Despite the size of your estate, probate can be a complicated process. If you want to minimize the complications for your survivors, or if you are in the midst of probate right now, an experienced probate lawyer can answer your questions and put your mind at ease.
Wills and Trusts Resource Links
American Bar Association Family Legal Guide to Estate Planning
An introduction to the topic of Estate Planning.
U.S. General Services Administration-Planning Your Estate
This Federal Consumer Information Center provides information on planning your estate. The article is produced by Metlife Consumer Education Center and is reviewed by the Division for Public Education of the American Bar Association and the Legal Services Corporation.