What Makes a Will Legal

Will Legalities

Creating a will is an important step that every adult should take. However, most people do not really know very much about the creation process. Do you need a lawyer to create your will for you? What is it that makes the will legal? This short guide will explain the legal process, differences between states, and the best will-creation practices.

What Makes a Will Legal?

You may be surprised to hear what the actual requirements are for a will to be legal. There are only two requirements for most states:

  • The will must be signed by two witnesses
  • The will must be signed and dated by the owner of the estate

As long as these two things are fulfilled, the will is legal. While it is inadvisable, a lawyer does not need to be involved in the process at all. In fact, the will can even be handwritten. There are a few important things that you should note. First, the witnesses to the will need to witness you signing and dating it. Second, the witnesses cannot be anyone who is benefiting from your will. If someone will receive some property from your estate, he or she may not be one of your witnesses.

One final important note: You do not need to file your will with your state, but your will needs to be kept in a safe, accessible place. Your will is supposed to state who the executor of it is, and it is important for the executor of your will to know where it is being kept. The executor of a will is the person who ensures that your final wishes are carried out. Some states allow you to file your will officially, but this is never a required step.

Holographic Wills

About 25 states allow something called a “holographic will.” This is when the will does not have any witnesses who signed it. Usually, holographic wills are for smaller estates with very little property. The laws in states that allow this kind of will are much looser. As long as the will is signed in your handwriting, it should be official.

The downside is that probate courts usually treat holographic wills much stricter. They are scrutinized closely since there are fewer safeguards in place. If you want to be certain that your final wishes will be honored, you should avoid making a holographic will. Likewise, it is a very good idea to have a will lawyer, like a will lawyer in Chandler, AZ, produce your will for you so no mistakes are made.

Thanks to Citadel Law Firm for their insight into what makes a will a legal document.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

Estate Planning Lawyer

A will is a legal document that describes what you wish to happen to your possessions after your death, as well as a few other legal matters. However, what happens if someone dies without a will? It is a simple question, although many people do not know the answer. This guide will go over every aspect of this question.

Dying Without a Will

The first thing you need to understand is that the answer to this question depends heavily on which state you live in. The laws vary from one state to the next, which affects the specifics. However, the broad details are the same no matter which state you live in.

Generally, if someone dies without a will, their possessions will be distributed to that person’s living heirs. This is called dying intestate. The specific way the items are distributed does depend on your local laws. You should research intestate laws in your state or speak with an estate planning attorney. Many people think of children when they hear the word “heir,” but in this case it applies to:

  • Children
  • Spouses
  • Siblings
  • Parents
  • Extended family

In some cases, it may also apply to domestic partnerships, although only certain states acknowledge domestic partnerships. Generally, the state does not give any possessions to anyone who is not related to the deceased by blood or marriage.

There is usually an order which the state follows. Sometimes a person’s spouse will receive all the possessions. If there is no spouse, living children are next in line. Without any children or a spouse, siblings and parents will usually receive the possessions equally. Extended relatives are the next ones in line after siblings and parents. If you die without a will and no living relatives, children, parents, or spouse, the state will usually claim the possessions.

Create a Will for Yourself

It is not hard to make a will for yourself and it is very important to do so. Everyone should have a will to ensure your final wishes are carried out. A will does more than just designate what should happen with your possessions. It handles a few other legal matters as well, which is just another reason to have one. The easiest way to create a will is to visit an estate planning attorney. In most cases, an estate planning attorney in Queen Creek, AZ can create a will for you in just a few visits for a relatively small fee. Take the initiative now to be prepared for later.

 


 

Thanks to Citadel Law Firm for their insight into estate planning and what happens if you die without a will.

Understanding What a Trust Is

Trust Attorney

If you are starting the process of planning your estate, it is important to know what your options are before you get started. You have two primary options:

  • A will
  • A trust

It is generally recommended that everyone has a will, although there are some things a will is not suited for. It may be a good idea to have a trust as well, to account for some of your possessions. It is common knowledge what a will is and how it works, but many people do not fully understand trusts. This guide will answer all your questions about trusts.

What Is a Trust?

Let’s start with the basics. What is a trust in the first place? A trust is essentially an agreement. If you set up a trust, you will be the benefactor. The person you make an agreement with is the trustee. And finally, the person you leave your possessions to is the beneficiary.

When you set up a trust, you transfer some of your possessions to the trustee. You also set a condition on the trust. When that condition is met, the trustee transfers the possessions to the beneficiary. If you hope to use a trust to plan your estate, the condition would likely be your death, although you can set up a trust for any reason and with any condition you want.

Why Would You Want a Trust?

So in what ways is a trust better than a will? There are advantages in a few areas:

  • Probate
  • Taxation
  • Conditions

First, a trust does not go through the probate period that a will does. Probate is usually not very long, but in rare cases where a will is improperly set up, probate can last months or years. Most of the time, however, probate only lasts a day or two or possibly a week at most. This is something you would never have to worry about with a trust.

Trusts also avoid estate taxation in most cases. The taxes a will are subject to are usually less than the fee needed to establish a trust, but this is not always the case. If you have a reason to suspect your estate will be taxed very highly, a trust may be more appealing.

Finally, you can set conditions on who receives what. For example, you can leave your grandson a car if he is old enough to drive at the time of your death. A will cannot do this. No matter what you decide, always speak with a trust lawyer in Chandler, AZ.

 


 

Thanks to Citadel Law Firm for their insight into estate planning and what a trust is.

Special Estate Planning Considerations for Women

Estate Planning Lawyer

Not so long ago, the process of estate planning was generally considered to be a “man’s business.” It was not socially acceptable for women to be financially savvy and deeply invested in matters involving a family’s estate. However, over the past several decades this well-established social norm has been flipped on its head. It is now considered critically important for women to be invested and involved in all financial and legal matters that affect them. As estate planning centers on one’s individual wishes concerning property, medical care, guardianship for minor children and legacy in the wake of incapacitation and/or death, women are now becoming more informed than ever about the estate planning process. In addition, many are discovering that working with an experienced attorney allows them to be both informed and empowered in regards to their individual estate planning journeys.  

Estate Planning as a “Woman’s Issue”

The reason that estate planning is a woman’s issue is both simple and straightforward: Estate planning affects women. Any woman who is interested in ensuring that her wishes are clearly articulated and legally enforceable should therefore consider connecting with an experienced estate planning attorney today.

When planning for a consultation, please consider writing down any questions you may have about this process and gathering some helpful documentation. For example, you may want to write down the names of individuals you would consider entrusting with the authority to make medical and/or financial decisions on your behalf in the event you were incapacitated by injury or illness. You may wish to bring along a thumbdrive containing important information about your digital accounts for use in creating your digital estate plan. Similarly, you may wish to list all of your financially-related accounts, truly sentimental and/or financially valuable property and the needs of your pets so that you and your attorney can address these assets as you prepare your estate plan. This process can be intimidating, but it is necessary and potentially very, very time-sensitive, so please don’t wait to get started.

Legal Assistance Is Available

If you are interested in creating an estate plan or modifying an existing estate plan, please do not hesitate to schedule a consultation with an attorney experienced in this area of law. Estate plans are meant to serve as living documents. As a result, they are meant to be updated over time so that they can consistently reflect the most current wishes of the individual estate plan creator. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney will allow you to better ensure that your wishes are both clearly (and currently) articulated and are ultimately enforceable. A law firm has extensive experience assisting women with both creating estate plans “from scratch” and with modifying existing estate plans. An attorney would be happy to speak with you about your unique estate planning needs, priorities and broader vision and to answer any questions you may have.

 


 

Thank you to our experts at Klenk Law for their input into estate planning. 

Do I need a probate lawyer?

Probate Lawyer

If you are unsure of whether or not you need a probate lawyer, contact an AZ probate lawyer today. We focus on probate and other estate planning legal services for residents in the Phoenix area. Probate is not always necessary, but it is a legal process and so it’s important that the Court’s requirements are met and that the applicable rules are followed. Lawyer offices often offer a complimentary consultation with our probate lawyer to determine which, if any, of our legal services you may be in need of. We welcome you to call us and make an appointment today to learn more.

What is probate?

Probate is a legal process that is handled by a probate court and judge following the death of someone and its focus is to determine if the decedent’s will is legitimate and how the assets should be distributed if there was no valid will. In addition, if the will does not designate an executor to manage the estate, the probate judge will name someone. Usually, that person is a close relative of the decedent. There are other aspects of the probate process that may also come into play, depending on the circumstances. Your probate lawyer can tell you if any of the following will be necessary during probate:

  • Validate the decedent’s will.
  •  Appoint an executor to follow the instructions of the will and eventually close out the estate.
  • Determine the location of each of the estate’s assets and assess the value of each asset.
  • Identify each beneficiary and which should inherit which asset or assets and the amount of each, such as cash or percentages of liquidated assets.
  • Payment of estate taxes and debts to creditors.

 What does a probate attorney do? 

A probate lawyer provides legal counsel to an estate’s executor or the will’s beneficiaries of a decedent’s estate. Every situation is different and so a probate lawyer’s tasks and responsibilities varies from one case to the next. In large part, the probate lawyer’s actions will be guided by the probate laws of the State of Arizona and whether or not the decedent died without leaving a valid will. Some of the services that our probate lawyer can provide clients includes:

  • Identify and locate the estate’s assets.
  •  Appraise the value of the estate’s assets.
  • File all required documentation for the probate process to the correct authorities and before the deadline expires.
  • Provide legal guidance to the estate’s executor as to payment of the decedent’s debts and bills (including burial costs if appropriate), and liquidation of assets in order to pay the estate’s debt and taxes.
  •  Assist in settling any disputes that arise between the estate’s beneficiaries and/or with the executor.
  • Provide guidance during the distribution of the decedent’s assets to the named beneficiaries.

Should I hire a probate attorney?

Ultimately, this is a personal decision but in many cases, hiring a probate lawyer is beneficial when the goal is to streamline the process and ensure that it is completed lawfully and correctly. Contact us at a probate lawyer today and request a free consultation.

 


 

Thank you to our friends at Kamper Estrada, LLP for their information on probate lawyers.

The Basics of Writing a Will

Writing a Will

Many people go through life avoiding the thought of what will happen after they die. While no one wants to think about their mortality, it can relieve a great deal of anxiety to have a will in place so that you know your wishes can be carried out. If you pass away without a will, the state will determine what happens to your property, and they can even make decisions regarding who will take care of your minor children. This can be devastating news to some people, which is why you will want an estate planning attorney, like an estate planning attorney in Allentown, PA, to help you create your will. One of the most basic things you can do to ensure your assets go to the right people and your children are taken care of is to create a will, and no one wants to have to keep going back to it because they forgot something in the first one. Speak with our attorneys to see how we can help you with your estate planning needs.

Keep It Simple

One of the great things about creating a will is that you don’t need any frills. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t need to be a millionaire, and you don’t need to own multiple properties. Instead, you can keep your will basic so that it covers all of your needs (and your family’s needs). You may want to create a will if you want:

  1. To name someone as the guardian of your minor children.
  2. To name someone to take care of your property.
  3. To name someone to give money to.
  4. To name someone as the executor of your estate to ensure your will is carried out the way you would like it to be.

How do I know what kind of will I need? Can I just stick to the basics?

This is a great question, and most people should have some kind of will. Whether it is a basic will or a more elaborate will depends on many things. For example, the younger you are, the less likely you are to have large amounts of wealth or property. Your attorney may only recommend a basic will in these circumstances.

What if I want to leave money to my minor children?

When spouses create wills, it is very common for each spouse to will their property to one another, then to their children, if they both pass away. When this happens, you can not only name a guardian for your minor child, but you can also ensure that someone you trust will take care of the property until your child is an adult.

When you want to create a will and have questions regarding whether you want a basic will or a more elaborate will, contact a respected estate planning lawyer to feel confident moving forward with making your will.

Thanks to Klenk Law for their insight into the basics of writing a will.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

Every state has a certain time limit allotted for a case to be officially filed. This is called a “statute of limitations.” Statute of limitations are attached to everything and prevent prosecutors from charging a person with a crime that has already reached its statute of limitations. The clock for the limitation generally begins at the time the injury occurred. The deadlines for each of the cases depend on the category of case you are filing. For example, debts, libel, and breach of contract all have common statues of around 1 to 6 years. Failing to make a case within the time frame will cause you to forfeit your ability to litigate the case. 

States Determine the Laws 

The objective of this law is to make sure that trials are based on relevant and current information that has not deteriorated with time. These limitations vary from state to state. Kentucky’s statute of limitations goes as low as one year, Texas’ personal injury lawsuits generally have a two year statute of limitations, and Maine has a six year limit. A skilled personal injury attorney, such as a personal injury attorney in Austin, TX, will know the laws concerning the statute of limitations in your state. 

Stopping the Clock

In many cases, people who are injured do not fully understand they were wronged until quite some time after the incident occurred. This generally happens in breach of contract cases, wage law disputes, or in cases of medical malpractice. Something can be done to temporarily pause the clock. Tolling the statute of limitations describes when the metaphorical “clock” on a statute is paused. The idea behind tolling is to give the plaintiffs a fair amount of time to bring the case to court. 

Tolling can be requested by the court and the judge will decide whether the reasoning is valid for interrupting the time limit. There are also traditional reasons tolling can occur. If the plaintiff is imprisoned or a minor, or if the defendant has fled there might be some leniency on the timeframe. There has been debate on the subject of when the statute should begin. Some believe that the statute begins when the crime occurred, while others believe the statute should begin when the wrong was discovered or fully comprehended. Some court decisions have gone in favor of the injured party allowing the clock to begin when the injury was discovered. Injuries occur often and are incredibly commonplace, therefore everyone should pay attention to the statutes on each kind of case. Ultimately, statutes of limitations are in place to keep a sense of responsibility and fairness within the court system. 

Thanks to Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into the statute of limitations in the court system.

Should You Leave Money to a Charity in Your Will?

Probate Lawyer Sacramento California

If you want to leave money to a charity, depending on your situation, it may be feasible to do this in a will, or it may be more beneficial to your legacy to give your money to a charity in a different way. If you want to leave a non-cash gift to a charity after you pass, there are different ways to distribute wealth that is not liquidated.

Leaving money to a charity in a Last Will and Testament is a legally sound way to ensure that your money will go to the charity that you want it to but it is not always the most financially advantageous way to give money to a charity after you have passed. An individual’s specific situation will help to determine what is the best way for them to leave money to a charity.

Why should you leave money to a charity?

Leaving money to a charity touches peoples’ lives and sustains charities that will continue to do this in your name. People may be able to appreciate you and your generosity for generations to come.

Planned giving to a charity leaves a personal legacy to something that is meaningful to you after you are gone. Your endowment will help your memory live on in the name of a foundation that you believe in.

Are there tax benefits to leaving money to a charity?

Depending on the type of gift a person makes, there may be tax benefits to your estate if you leave money to a charity. There are different ways to do this. A lawyer that is licensed to help with these matters is a good person to ask about your particular situation and what tax advantages may be available to you.

One example of a way to get a tax benefit to leaving money to a charity, is to create a life insurance policy with a charity of your choice as the beneficiary. While you are alive, you can claim the annual cost as a charitable donation.

Talk to a lawyer to find out more about your state’s particular estate tax and charitable donation laws.

What is a legacy gift?

A legacy gift is a planned future gift that designates some part of an individual’s estate as a donation to a charity or other nonprofit organization.

What is legacy giving?

Legacy giving, also called planned giving, is a type of post-mortem gift-giving that enables philanthropic individuals to make larger gifts to charitable organizations than they could make from ordinary income.  

What kinds of non-monetary assets can you give to a charity?

Charities will often accept many different valuable gifts that are not money. These include but are not limited to:

  • Real estate
  • Personal property, such as jewelry, vehicles, artwork, and antiques, etc.
  • Proceeds from life insurance policies
  • Proceeds from retirement plans
  • Investments, such as stocks and mutual funds, etc. 
  • Partnership interest in a business

For highly-rated estate planning and probate lawyers, contact the Yee Law Group for a free case evaluation, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

States That Allow Asset Protection Trust Creation

Trust Attorney

An asset protection trust is an irrevocable trust that includes a spendthrift clause, with the purpose of protecting assets from creditors and other parties, so these assets can be passed untouched to the designated beneficiaries. The creditors do not go unpaid, but rather this allows them to settle with the debtors on favorable terms for both parties while avoiding the costs of court time.

States Where Asset Protection Trusts are Fully Allowed

Some states are beginning to accept the formation of these types of trusts, such as Colorado on limited terms, but as of 2019, at least the following states fully allow asset protection trusts, also known as Domestic Asset Protection Trusts:

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota

These states have a few common requirements, such as the trust being irrevocable and containing a spendthrift clause; having one or more trustees; and having some of the admin work completed within the state the trust was established in. As well, the settlor may not be able to be the trustee.

If you do not live in one of these states, you can still establish this type of trust in one of them. The only rule with this, is that the real estate or property you place in the trust must be located in the same jurisdiction that the trust is established in. There are some offshore countries which allow the creation of foreign asset protection trusts, such as the Cook Islands and Cayman Islands. Setting up this type of entity usually provides you with more privacy and security from potential domestic issues you might be anticipating.

Trust Benefits

The formation of an asset protection trust was fairly controversial when it was first invented, and is still not allowed in most states. However, more states are allowing it to be part of the estate planning process, and it can be beneficial for estates that are large and complex. Some reasons families may put a few of their assets into this type of entity include:

  • Protecting the beneficiary from taxes, bankruptcy (creditors), or divorces
  • Avoiding the probate process, just as any other type of trust
  • Reducing your current taxable estate or inheritance

The creation of this entity involves detailed regulatory requirements, so it is highly recommended that you establish one with the guidance of an experienced estate attorney in Cherry Hill, NJ. This will help to ensure that your trust is setup correctly in respect to the laws that govern its particular jurisdiction, following all state and federal laws, and that it remains legitimate in the case that the laws change over time.

 


 

Thanks to Klenk Law for their insight into estate law and asset protection.

Estate Planning: Insight, Basics and Considerations

Estate Planning

For those planning for or nearing the twilight years of their lives, estate planning will (at some point) come into consideration. An estate is comprised of everything you own. This includes things like personal property, insurance, investments, etc. Regardless of how much you own, you can’t take it with you when the time comes, so making sure to plan out its distribution is a must. Although estate planning may be a complicated task, a well-developed plan can potentially make a large difference in what is left to the people you care most deeply about. Without an appropriate plan, friends and relatives can spend a significant amount of time and money fighting over the distribution of assets left by a decedent (dead person).

In terms of a simple definition, estate planning is defined as preparation for the transfer of one’s wealth and assets post-mortem. This process involves the writing, signing, and notarization of plans by the person who owns the estate. Although conventional wisdom may say otherwise, a will simply isn’t enough to guarantee one’s wishes when looking to distribute their assets. Though the procedure known as probate, a judge will interpret a will and allow for the transfer of money and property to written beneficiaries. However, due to the nature of this procedure, it may be possible for relatives or third parties to contest the will and make the transfer process far more complex and lengthy. Also, fees for probate can cost thousands of dollars, making it more difficult for beneficiaries to continue with the legal process.

Things to consider when thinking of estate planning:

  • Estate planning is for everyone, not just the wealthy
  • An estate plan starts with a will or living trust
  • Not enough people plan due to business, stigma, age, etc.
  • The best time to plan is now; preparation is key

It’s also important to consider working with an attorney or tax advisor on your plan as they will provide essential guidance through the estate planning process (especially with it comes to documentation). While you make the key decisions when it comes to distribution, an estate planning lawyer in Arlington, TX can help you through some of the more complex interactions involving your options. This way you can avoid mistakes, minimize taxes and help levy your plans to your current circumstance.

If there’s anything to take from this, it should be that estate planning, although a lengthy and complex process, is a necessary step towards making sure that your loved ones are the ones who receive the assets you have gained throughout your time contributing to the economic landscape.

 

Thanks to Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into estate planning and the basics you need to know.