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Estate Planning FAQ

The Seawell Firm, LLC  June 18, 2024

The process of estate planning involves organizing your assets and responsibilities so they're managed according to your wishes after your passing or in the event of incapacity.  

It's natural for this process to raise numerous questions and concerns, as it deals with significant personal and financial matters. Questions about who will inherit your property, how your estate will be managed, and what legal tools are available to protect your interests are just a few examples of the details involved. 

At The Seawell Firm, LLC, we understand that every estate planning situation is unique and can be accompanied by uncertainties. Our experienced team is dedicated to answering all your questions and guiding you through each step of the estate planning process. We take the time to thoroughly explain your options and ensure that you make informed decisions that best suit your needs and goals. 

To assist you further, we've compiled a list of frequently asked questions about estate planning. These FAQs address common concerns and provide detailed insights into the various aspects of estate planning. 

What is estate planning, and why is it important? 

Essentially, estate planning is creating a comprehensive strategy to manage your assets and affairs during your lifetime and after your death. It ensures that your wishes are honored concerning the distribution of your assets, care of your dependents, and fulfillment of your health care preferences.  

Taking the steps to establish an estate plan is crucial because it provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones, minimizes the potential for family disputes, reduces tax liabilities, and ensures a smooth transition of assets. 

What documents are typically included in an estate plan? 

A comprehensive estate plan usually includes several key documents: 

  • Will: A legal document that specifies how your assets should be distributed after your death and who will manage your estate 

  • Trust: A fiduciary arrangement where a trustee holds and manages assets on behalf of beneficiaries 

  • Power of attorney: A document authorizing an agent to make financial and health care decisions on your behalf 

  • Advance health care directive (living will): Specifies your health care preferences if you become incapacitated 

  • Beneficiary designations: Forms that designate who will receive assets from life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other financial products 

What is the difference between a will and a trust? 

A will is a legal document that outlines how your assets should be distributed and who will become the guardian of your minor children after your death. It must go through probate, a court-supervised process.  

A trust, on the other hand, allows you to transfer assets to a trustee during your lifetime to manage for the benefit of your beneficiaries. Trusts can avoid probate, provide greater privacy, and enable more complex distribution scenarios. 

How often should I update my estate plan? 

It's essential to review and update your estate plan regularly, especially when significant life events occur, such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a beneficiary, significant changes in assets, or changes in laws. We recommend reviewing your estate plan at least once every three to five years so it remains aligned with your current wishes and circumstances. 

Do I need an attorney to create an estate plan? 

While it's possible to create a basic estate plan using online tools, consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is highly recommended. An attorney can provide personalized legal advice, draft documents tailored to your unique needs, and verify that your estate plan complies with state laws. Working with an attorney can also minimize the risk of errors that could lead to legal disputes or unintended consequences. 

What happens if I die without an estate plan? 

If you die without an estate plan (intestate), your assets will be distributed according to state intestacy laws. This often means that your assets may not be distributed according to your wishes, and the process can be longer and more expensive for your loved ones. Additionally, a court-appointed guardian may be assigned to your minor children, which may not align with your preferences. 

How can I minimize estate taxes? 

There are several strategies to minimize estate taxes, including setting up trusts (such as revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, or charitable trusts), making lifetime gifts to beneficiaries, establishing family-limited partnerships, and utilizing life insurance effectively. Consulting with an estate planning attorney can help you develop a tax-efficient strategy tailored to your specific situation. 

What should I consider when choosing an executor or trustee? 

When selecting an executor or trustee, consider their ability to manage financial matters, their trustworthiness, and their willingness to serve in this role. It's essential to choose someone who understands your wishes and can act impartially. If you do not have a suitable individual in mind, you may also appoint a professional fiduciary or trust company. 

How can The Seawell Firm, LLC help with estate planning? 

At The Seawell Firm, LLC, we specialize in creating customized estate plans that reflect your individual needs and goals. Our experienced attorney provides comprehensive services, including drafting wills and trusts, setting up powers of attorney, advising on tax-efficient strategies, and ensuring all legal requirements are met. We are committed to guiding you through the estate planning process with care. 

Secure Your Legacy With The Seawell Firm, LLC

Now is the time to ensure that your future and the future of your loved ones are secure. Contact The Seawell Firm, LLC today to schedule a consultation and begin the estate planning process. With our compassionate guidance, you can create a plan that provides peace of mind and protects your legacy. Let's work together to achieve your estate planning goals.