It seems that there is movement toward "do it yourself" estate planning. Online and Offline advertisment point to the cost of attorneys and the lack of a real need for professional guidance. This movement because people have been somehol led to believe that estate planning process is simply filling out forms and checking boxes.
Unlike other areas of the law, there isn’t a judge or another attorney so why use a lawyer and spend all that money! Fill out some documents in the comfort of your home or office and if you don’t understand something call the “hotline” and speak to a real lawyer (maybe) for no additional charge! That hotline lawyer will probably answer your question but will that really end the issue?
Did you miss a more serious issue? If you don’t understand the issue, you can’t ask the right questions even to the best attorney in the world. Estate planning is more than just filling out forms and you should expect more than that from your estate planning attorney. Every family’s situation is different regardless of the size of the estate. Money is only one issue in an estate plan. You need to be concerned with not only money but property ownership, property transfers, guardianship, long term care eligibility, and the quality of life of your survivors during your final years. If you believe that a product like Legal Zoom will provide guidance in all of those areas, be prepared for disappointment!
Your estate planning attorney is an advisor and not just someone who drafts your Last Will and Testament following a consultation. You want an attorney who goes beyond just filling out forms and one who focuses on the changes to your plan that will occur as you age. Simply doing a Will isn’t enough. A Will that you make 10 or even 25 years before you die will often fail to take into account life changes that occur to all of us. The right estate planning attorney.
Basic Estate Planning Terms
During the estate planning process you will encounter a number of terms that you often don’t see or hear in your everyday life. It’s important to understand these terms because everyone involved in the probate process, including your attorney, will use them. If you don’t understand them you should ask your lawyer because you may miss an important part of the process which could result in confusion and defeats the whole purpose of estate planning. Here are some commonly used terms:
- Administrator (ix) – the person appointed by the court to manage the assets and liabilities a person who dies without a Will.
- Executor (ix) – the person named by the deceased to carry out the provisions in a Last Will and Testament.
- Fiduciary – a person who must exercise a high standard of care in managing another person’s money or property. A fiduciary can be an administrator, an executor, or a trustee.
- Devise – the act of disposing of real estate through a Will
- Decedent – the person who has died and whose estate is being settled.
- Trustee – the person who has the legal authority to hold property for the benefit of another and who owes a fiduciary duty to that person – the beneficiary.
- Settlor – a person who creates a trust.
- Beneficiary – one who receives property or some other asset from a trust, a Will, an insurance policy or some other contract, agreement or legal entity.
- Heir – a person, who under the law of intestacy, is entitled to receive an intestate decedent’s property or a person who is entitled to receive it under a Will.
- Legatee – a person who is named to receive personal property through a Will (cash or something other than real estate).
- Lineal Descendent – a person who derives from a common ancestry especially a direct line of heredity; a direct blood relative.
- Probate – process of administering a deceased’s estate. This includes distributing his/her assets, paying liabilities (inheritance and estate taxes along with any long term or short term debts).
- Testate – when a person dies and leaves a Will.
- Testator (ix) – the person making a Will.
- Intestate – when a person dies and does not leave a Will.
- Remainder – a future interest which a third person maintains that takes effect after the asset passes from the initial beneficiary (example: “A” for the remainder of his life and then to “B.” “B” is the remainder)
- Letters of Testamentary – a document issued when a person dies with a Will and the named executor accepts the duty to administer the Estate.
- Letters of Administration – a document issued to the person appointed to administer the estate when a person dies without a Will.
At Gambone Law, we invite you to take some to get to know us! Read, our blogs, watch our videos and download a copy of our free estate planning guidebook which details our estate planning philopshy.