Wills & Probate Law FAQs
1. What kinds of Wills and Probate services do you provide?
- I prepare Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Health Care Directives (also known as Living Wills). I also handle probate of estates and Will contests.
2. Why do I need a Will?
- Even if you have a modest amount of assets in your estate, a Will lets you choose (a) who your heirs will be, (b) how much of your assets will go to each heir, and (c) which heirs are to receive which assets. If you do not have a Will, distribution of your assets will be determined by law. This may mean that intended heirs receive nothing and unintended heirs receive unintended distributions of your estate.
3. Why do I need a Power of Attorney?
- A Power of Attorney allows you to choose a trusted person (“attorney-in-fact”) to handle your financial and medical decisions when you are unable to do so yourself. This means that you can concentrate on your own care without worrying about issues that your attorney-in-fact can handle for you.
4. Why do I need a Health Care Directive (Living Will)?
- This document allows you to choose just how much medical treatment you want in your final days. The question is whether you want your medical providers to take extraordinary measures to extend your life longer or just let nature take its course. This document allows you to choose now the course of final treatment. This means that there is no question about it later.
5. After I pass, should my estate go through Probate?
- If your estate is worth $100,000 or more, then it should go through probate because there may be (a) heirs and (b) creditors with legitimate claims against the estate. The probate process gathers all of the assets of your estate so that it is known how much the estate is worth. Then, any known or potential creditors are given the opportunity to make any legitimate claims on the estate. Finally, after these issues are resolved, the remaining assets are distributed to the intended heirs.
6. Do I need an attorney to represent me?
- Yes, because the whole process is very complicated, difficult, and can be fairly long. There are several (a) types of forms that will need to be completed and (b) timelines that must be followed. You most likely will not know the who, what, when, where, and how of the numerous tasks and forms that will need to be done.
- Also, an attorney will (a) make sure that the intentions of the deceased are carried out; (b) make sure that any creditors with legitimate claims on the estate are satisfied; and (c) minimize the chance of a later Will contest.
7. How and when do I have to pay my attorney?
- Depending on the situation, an attorney may charge a client a set fee or charge on an hourly basis. Typically, I work on an hourly basis and will require that a retainer be paid by the client upon signing of the engagement contract and commencement of work on the matter. As the matter progresses, I will draw my compensation and costs/expenses from this retainer. The retainer may need to be replenished as probate goes on.
8. When should I get an attorney?
- As soon as possible because then the estate can be settled and distributions to heirs made quicker and correctly.
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