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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Wills, Power of Attorney, and Trusts
What is a Will?
A Will ensures that your assets are given to the loved ones in the way in which you direct. If you do not have a Will, your property will be divided and distributed under the law, without regard to your wishes.
Why do I need a Will?
After your death, all property and assets owned solely by you will become part of your Estate and will be subject to probate. Some assets can be distributed without a Will. For example, if you own real estate with your spouse as "tenants by the entirety", this property will automatically become the sole property of your spouse after your death. Certain other assets such as retirement accounts, life insurance and annuities will allow you to name beneficiaries directly. If you fail to name a beneficiary, however, that asset will also become part of your Estate and subject to the terms of the Will.
I have a Will, do I need a new one?
Generally, you should review your Estate Plan and documents every 3-5 years to make sure that they reflect your wishes and the most current estate and tax laws. If there are changes in your family, such as a birth or death, it is also important to modify your documents reflect this. You will also want to revise your documents if there are significant changes in your finances.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you authorize someone else to act on your behalf in a matter. You can authorize someone to act only in a particular situation, or you can authorize someone to do anything legally or financially that you could do yourself. A Power of Attorney is extinguished on your death.
There are many kinds of Powers of Attorney, including General Powers of Attorney (which authorize your agent to perform almost any act), Financial Powers of Attorney (which authorize your agent to perform financial acts) and Medical Powers of Attorney (which authorize your agent to act on your behalf with respect to medical decisions and information).
What is a Living Will?
A Living Will, also called an Advanced Directive, is a legal document that details your desires regarding your medical treatment in a situation in which you are no longer able to express those desires. In this document you appoint an Agent, who acts on your behalf. Some Living Wills will also include a Medical Power of Attorney.
What is a Trust?
There are many kinds of trusts. Many people use trusts to help with Estate Planning. Trusts can be established while you are living and used to hold and/or protect certain assets. Trusts can also be included in your Will and often used when there are minor children who may inherit significant assets if both parents were to pass. These trusts are not in effect until your death. Assets from your estate are placed in the trust created in your Will, with restrictions on the use of the assets. A Trustee is appointed to oversee the management of the Trust.