Older woman working on her estate plan

Common Estate Planning Questions

Exactly what is my “estate”?

Many people associate the word “estate” with a large house or mansion (one of the word’s other meanings) but in terms of estate planning “estate” means the assets left by a person at death. These assets may include:

  • Real estate
  • Securities
  • Businesses or interests in businesses
  • Personal property (e.g. cars, boats, jewelry, furniture, antiques)
  • Cash and bank accounts
  • Retirement plans and IRAs
  • Life insurance 

It should be remembered that debts owed by the deceased are also part of their estate.

Who needs estate planning?

You do. Just about everyone needs an estate plan, not only people who live on “estates.” Although you may not be wealthy, you want your hard-earned assets to be used wisely. By working with one of the strong estate planning attorneys, like those at Surprenant & Beneski, P.C., you can ensure that you save for retirement, a second home, travel or to fulfill other dreams, while still providing for the futures of those you love most. 

What does estate planning accomplish?

Your accomplished estate planning lawyer will assist you in:

  1. Managing and protecting your assets even if you become incapacitated due to injury or illness.
  2. Making sure your designated beneficiaries receive their inheritance so that after you pass away funds you have accumulated may be used to help your child purchase a home or start a business or to pay for your grandchild’s education. 
  3. Ensuring that your wish to contribute is prearranged, whether to a charity, educational or medical institution.
  4. Protecting your assets from predatory lenders, scam artists, and unnecessary taxation.
  5. Protecting the privacy of you and your family.
  6. Ensuring that all of your wishes relative to your healthcare are precisely followed even if you are unable to communicate them.

Why do I need a will?

A will serves several important purposes, including:

  • Naming your beneficiaries
  • Naming a guardian for your minor children
  • Stating your intentions regarding your funeral, burial or cremation, or memorial
  • Protecting your assets from going to unintended beneficiaries (as might occur 
  • if you died intestate)
  • Designating the personal representative (executor) who will administer your estate
  • Preventing undue stress or conflict among your grieving family members

What is the purpose of creating a trust?

Trusts can provide a great many benefits. In addition to reducing estate taxes, they can help avoid probate, and enable you to designate a trusted person to manage your estate if you become incapacitated. Though the two basic types of trusts are revocable and irrevocable, there are numerous subcategories. Each specific type of trust serves a distinct purpose. 

These purposes include:

  • Special needs trusts that provide funds for individuals with special needs but will not make recipients ineligible for government benefits, such as Medicaid 
  • Spendthrift trusts are designed to protect family members who are irresponsible with money or have substance abuse or gambling addictions
  • Pet trusts designed to provide funds for beloved pets you may predecease

Because there are so many kinds of trusts, each with individual characteristics, you need a highly skilled estate planning attorney to help you determine which trusts will be advantageous in your particular case. 

How can I arrange for property to go directly to my beneficiary?

There are several ways that assets can go directly to your beneficiaries. This can occur when:

  • The title of real property is held jointly with the right of survivorship
  • Your property is held in a living trust
  • You have a life insurance policy or retirement account with a designated beneficiary
  • Your bank accounts are held jointly or with pay-on-death (POD) designations

An in-depth consultation with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney will clarify your best options.

Contact Our Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys Today

Our skilled lawyers have years of successful estate planning behind them and keep current with recent changes to all pertinent state and federal laws that may affect your asset protection and inheritance strategies. Contact us now to get the answers to all your questions on this essential matter.