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What is Estate Planning?

No really, this has made the list of frequently asked questions.  What estate planning is, is preparing documents that will help you navigate through tough life changing events while you are alive, and then making plans for your property when you pass on.  Advance Directives allow someone to automatically make health care decisions on your behalf should you be unable, without having to go through the Court system, to get approval to make these decisions.  It's costly, time consuming, and stressful.  Power of Attorney documents allow a person to make financial decisions on your behalf, again, without the time, costs, and stress of going through the Court system to get approval.  Depending on your goals for giving your property away as you see fit, various types of estate planning tools can be implemented, like trusts, life estate deeds, etc.  But the main estate planning document that everyone ought to have is a will.  

Do I Need a Will?

It's a very good idea!  A will allows you the opportunity to dispose of your property as you desire, and not as someone else will decide.  If you have minor children, a will allows you the opportunity to name a guardian of person and/or property.  A will allows you to name your own Personal Representative to help administer your estate.  It also gives you the opportunity to make a number of important decisions, rather than leaving it up to someone else.  

What's the Difference between Probate & Non Probate Property?

Probate Property is property that passes through the will.  Nonprobate property passes outside of the will.  For example, property held in trust automatically goes to the beneficiary.  Other assets like IRA, bank accounts, etc., with beneficiary designations pass to those beneficiaries with proof of a death certificate of the deceased. 

Who Should I Name in My Advance Directive and/or Power of Attorney?

Someone you trust!  You are authorizing them to make decisions on your behalf, both now, and at a later time should you become incapacitated and unable to make those decisions for yourself.