Frequently Asked Questions
Wolf Of Law > FAQ

What is estate planning?

Estate planning, in simple terms, is the process of providing instructions about how you want your assets or estate to be distributed after you’ve passed away and manage your assets in the event of incapacity. Your estate consists of everything you own. You get to decide who gets your assets, when they get them, and even what those assets can be used if for.

Estate planning also encompasses what you would like to happen in the event of your incapacity and how you would like your affairs handled. If you are looking to keep your wealth in the family, there are planning strategies available that allows the beneficiaries to your estate to access assets quickly while eliminating and reducing estate taxes.

What is my “estate”?

Many people do not consider estate planning because they do not think they have an estate. Your estate consists of anything that you own including personal property, bank accounts, and real property to name a few.

Without an estate plan, the state that you live in will determine what happens to your assets.

Who needs an estate plan?

Creating an estate plan has nothing to do with what you have or how much money you have. Everyone age 18 and above needs an estate plan and that plan will look different for everyone depending on where you are in your life, family dynamics, personal goals etc. Whether you are old or young, if you built a considerable wealth or you are just starting out, you need a written plan to put you in control of what happens to your assets and to protect yourself and those that you love.

Estate planning allows you to plan not just for death but also for incapacity due to illness/injury, retirement, and tax savings. This allows you to choose the person you trust to handle your affairs, as opposed to letting the court pick someone for you.

What are the benefits of Estate Planning?

There are two categories of people that would benefit from you having an estate plan. The first is your family and loved ones who will have peace of mind in knowing that you loved them enough that you handled all of your affairs without leaving it behind for them to take care of for you.

The second benefit from you creating a comprehensive estate plan is you! Having a plan in place offers the ultimate peace of mind in knowing that your family is in good hands and will be cared for in the way that you intend. You will no longer have to worry about “what if” because you have already planned for the passing of your wealth and legacy.
It also allows you to take inventory of your assets, your values, your goals, and you have a complete picture of who you are and what’s is important to you, reducing or even eliminating conflict and court.

You know what is best for you and your family, not a court or the state or anyone else.

When is the right time to consider Estate Planning?

The best time to plan is now. It’s important to create a plan when you are healthy and able regardless of age or financial status. Your plan can change as you and your assets grow. The more assets you acquire the more important it will be to make changes to your plan to ensure all of your assets are encompassed in your estate plan.

Planning is more about planning for the people you love. If you have young children, planning is especially important in ensuring that your children will always be cared for by someone you trust.

What is the difference between a will and a revocable living trust?

A will and a trust are both ways that allow you to distribute your assets at your death.

A will is a document that identifies who will represent your estate in the event of your death and who should be your personal representatives and who the court can distribute your assets to. A will is required to go through the probate process.

The process of probate is for the benefit of the creditors! A creditor may even force an estate open if it hasn’t been already, leaving your estate out of the control of your family for the amount of time it takes for the estate to be closed. The estate must remain open for the benefit of the creditors and a publication needs to be made so that any creditors can makes claims against the estate. Once the estate is closed, only then can the estate be distributed.

On the contrary, a trust helps to avoid the probate process and can be used to transfer assets in your estate both during your life and at the time of your death. Because a trust avoid probate, assets are transferred privately according to your wishes. There are many other benefits of a trust. Contact us today to learn more!

What happens if I die without an estate plan?

Without a written estate plan, your assets will pass to your loved ones through the laws of intestacy. In other words, the state that you live in has a default plan that specifies who would inherit your estate if you passed away. Essentially what this does is giving your rights away for the state to decide who gets your stuff. Without an estate plan, your assets will have to go through the probate process which is time-consuming and expensive and completely public.

When should I update or change my Estate Plan?

If you have an estate plan, then you have taken a key step towards protecting yourself and your family and your financial future, however, that plan must be updated in order for it to work. Generally, you will want to revisit your estate plan regularly and any time you undergo a significant life event. This ensures that your plan will work when you need it to.

Some life changes that may trigger changes in your estate plan include marriage, having children, divorce, or death of a spouse or beneficiary, an increase in assets, and a change in state and federal law to name a few.

What is probate?

Probate is a court process that handles the distribution of a deceased person’s estate by identifying creditors and beneficiaries. This process can occur when you die without having the proper plan in place. This proceeding can be a lengthy process extending for years in some cases and can costs thousands of dollars.

Probate is a public, expensive, and time-consuming process but it can be avoided with the right estate plan to save your loved ones time and money.

What is “business succession planning” and do I need to include it in my overall estate plan?

We will all exit our business at some point. A business succession plan creates the framework for what steps need to be taken to transfer your business to your loved ones, to key employees, partners or sell your business profitably.

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