Commonly Asked Questions

Estate Planning Common Questions

What is the difference between a will and a trust?

Wills and trusts have some similarities. They are both estate planning tools and can work together to create the most complete plan for an estate. The main differences between a will and a trust are:

  • Wills become effective after death, whereas some trusts are effective upon creation.
  • Wills direct who receives property upon death and appoint a legal representative to oversee this process, whereas a trust can distribute property prior to death.
  • Trusts cover only property placed in the trust, whereas wills cover anything owned solely by the person creating the will.
  • Wills are public record, whereas generally a trust remains private.
  • Will do not bypass probate, Trust do.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both wills and trusts, so speak with your attorney about your circumstances to determine which of the options, or what combination of the two, is best for you.

What is Power of Attorney? Should I worry about it?

Gives another person broad legal ability or limited ability to make legal decisions about someone’s property, finances or medical care. Powers of Attorney are essential to any comprehensive Estate Planning Services.

Are the recent stimulus checks taxable?

The short answer: No. In the somewhat longer words of the IRS: “No, the payment is not income and taxpayers will not owe tax on it. The payment will not reduce a taxpayer’s refund or increase the amount they owe when they file their 2020 or 2021 tax return next year.

Do I need to create a medical directive?

Medical directives can include power of attorney, a health care proxy, and medical instructions. Medical directives are an important part of estate planning, so no matter how unpleasant it might be for you and your loved ones to discuss, it is necessary and will save a great deal of emotional trauma in the future.

How often should I make changes to my Estate Planning documents?

As life changes, so should your estate plan;

  • Marriage
  • Children, by birth, adoption, or marriage
  • Divorce
  • Death of a spouse
  • Change in assets
  • Relocation
  • Change in status of a guardian, trustee, or executor
  • Changes in tax laws

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list of changes in circumstances.  If you have a substantial change and you are uncertain of the impact it will have on your current estate plan, please contact one of our professionals for assistance.

What is operation of Law?

Operation of law – A legal term indicating that a right or liability has been created for a party, irrespective of the intent of that party, because it is dictated by existing legal principles. For example, listing a beneficiary on a bank account, or retirement account, or life insurance, passes that item directly to the beneficiary bypassing probate.  This would also supersede other estate planning documents.

If I have a living trust, do I still need a will?

You may still need a will to capture any assets that may not have been transferred to the trust during your life. A “Pour-Over Will” will transfer assets to your trust. Once you establish a living trust, you must remember to transfer your assets into the trust. Assets that are not in your trust, that do not have beneficiary designations or are not jointly titled with another individual, may still be subject to probate. You should discuss the transfer of tax-deferred assets, such as IRAs, KEOGHs or pension plans, with your attorney or accountant.

What is a Charitable Remainder Trust?

A Charitable Remainder Trust is a tax-exempt, irrevocable trust that allows a donor to make a current gift of cash or appreciated assets to a trust while receiving an income stream from the trust for his or her life. At the donor’s death, the trust terminates, and the appointed trustee distributes the remaining assets to charities as directed by the donor. The trust may provide a current income tax deduction, freedom to sell assets without immediate capital gains realization, and potential for reduction or elimination of estate taxes.