Estate Planning FAQ
We frequently receive calls from people who have basic questions about their estate planning needs. Here are a few of the questions with some broad overview answers. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and these answers should not be taken as legal advice. Call us with your specific questions about your needs and concerns.
Do you need help understanding what documents best suit your needs to ensure that your property passes to your designated heirs in the manner in which you desire? Call the Law Offices of Maribeth Blessing, LLC, in Rockledge, Pennsylvania, at 215-392-0849 or toll-free at 866-603-8691 to discuss your questions with our attorneys. Our law firm advises and represents individuals and families in communities throughout Montgomery County, Bucks County and the Philadelphia metropolitan area.
What Are My Estate Planning Options?
There are four basic methods you can use to plan your estate:
- Do nothing
- Hold title to your assets in joint tenancy
- Create a will
- Establish other estate documents that meet your needs or financial capabilities
What Happens If I Do Nothing?
Statistics show that a majority of Americans do not have a will or estate planning documents. If you pass away without estate planning documents state law will dictate how your estate is distributed. Not having a plan in place can also prolong the probate process, resulting in high costs that eat away at whatever inheritance you would otherwise leave for your family.
What Is Joint Tenancy?
When two or more people hold joint title to an asset with the intention that the surviving owner will receive the property, that is called a joint tenancy with right of survivorship. When one owner passes away, his/her interest in the property transfers automatically to the other joint tenants (owners). This is a good option for married couples or parents and children — anyone you would like to leave your property to after your death. Because this transfer of ownership happens automatically, it is not necessary to account for such jointly held properties in your will.
Is Creating A Will A Good Idea?
A will is a legal document that lays out how you want your assets distributed at death. However, a will does not control how joint assets with rights of survivorship or transfer upon death assets are distributed, or items, like life insurance, in which you named a beneficiary. When you pass away, your will is submitted to probate unless you are a married couple and everything passes by Will to your spouse by virtue of title. Once your debts have been paid, the executor, whose fiduciary duty can be reviewed by the court, distributes your remaining assets per the terms in your will.
Should I Have An Estate Plan If My Estate Is Small?
Yes. Everyone can benefit from estate planning documents, no matter how large or small his or her estate. A will, a power of attorney and a health care directive will provide you with the safety net you need in the event of an illness, disease or accident leaves you unable to make your own financial and medical decisions. Having your affairs in order also provides peace of mind, which is invaluable.
Do All Estates Pay Federal Estate Taxes?
No. The federal estate tax exemption protects most people from federal estate taxes. Only estates greater than the exemption amount owe federal estate taxes.
How Do I Know Which Estate Planning Documents I Need?
The first step is to make an appointment with a skilled lawyer at the Law Offices of Maribeth Blessing, LLC. We will sit down with you, discuss your situation, your needs and your goals, then advise you on the estate planning documents that are right for you. Should you require extensive estate documents or trusts, we can help you find an attorney who handles complex estate planning matters.
At our meeting, you should be prepared to discuss the following issues:
- How do I want my assets to be distributed after I am gone?
- Who do I want to manage my assets if I become mentally disabled, and at the time of my death?
- Who do I want to make health care decisions for me if I become mentally disabled?
Our office also offers probate help to suit your needs. You can receive advice regarding what to do if you are the executor for someone who has died.