Estate Planning and Probate

What Is An Estate?

What Is Estate Planning?

Is Estate Planning Just Having A Will?

What is a Will?

What is a Trust?

What is Probate?

Why Avoid Probate?

Why should I go see Attorney Case to set up my Estate Plan?

Q: What Is An Estate?

There is a common misconception that "estates" are exclusive to multimillionaires.  An estate is everything people own in their own name or jointly with others. It encompasses assets of every kind, like real estate, cash, stocks, bonds, retirement plans, life insurance, businesses, personal property (furniture, art, antiques, cars, collections, other treasured items, etc.) and any other kind of investment.

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Q: What Is Estate Planning?

The definition of estate planning adopted by the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys is:

"I want to control my property while I am alive and well, care for myself and my loved ones if I become disabled, and be able to give what I have to whom I want, the way I want, and when I want, and if I can, I want to save every last tax dollar, attorney fee and court cost possible."

A good estate plan will meet this definition of estate planning.

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Q: Is Estate Planning Just Having A Will?

For centuries, wills were just about all that comprised " estate planning". Today, the field of estate planning has grown to be one of the most technically demanding and comprehensive areas of the law.

Estate planning is:

  • Ensuring that your hopes, dreams and concerns for yourself and for your loved ones will be accomplished if you become incapacitated or die.
  • It is protecting you and those you love by keeping you, your family and your sensitive business and personal information out of probate court, where the information becomes a matter of public record, when you become legally incapacitated or die.
  • Estate planning is designing a plan (usually in a trust agreement) which contains some well thought instructions for your family’s continued well-being after your death based on your wishes and desires.
  • It contains provisions to protect your estate from creditors and even protect your beneficiaries from themselves.

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Q: What is a Will?

A will is a legal document that deals specifically with the distribution of your assets after your death, and is validated only through the probate court process.

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Q: What is a Trust?

Imagine for a moment that all of your assets are boxes – your home is a box, your car is a box, your bank account is a box, and so on. You have this stack of “boxes” that you are carrying in your hands as you walk through life. If you should trip and fall (i.e. die or become disabled), the “boxes” fall all over the place, and you need a lawyer to help you gather them up.  If you are alive and disabled, the “boxes” are picked up with a power of attorney, if you have one. If you are dead, they can be picked up with your will, if you have one, if not the state will decide who gets what for you. Either way your loved ones or heirs will have to go to probate court to decipher and direct where the “boxes” go.

You can avoid all that with a trust.  When you establish a trust, it is like getting a little red wagon to put your “boxes” (or assets) in. They all fit inside the wagon, nice and snug. You have total control over what goes in the wagon, what comes out of the wagon and how each of these tasks is accomplished.  If something should happen to you, the only thing you drop is the handle.  The “boxes” (your assets) are all still safely tucked inside the wagon.

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Q: What is Probate?

Probate is the court-supervised administration of your estate. It generally serves three purposes: to organize all of your assets, to pay your bills and settle any other creditor issues, and to oversee distribution of your estate according to your intentions.

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Q: Why Avoid Probate?

Probate has been defined as "...the lawsuit you bring against yourself with your own money to benefit your creditors."  Although it isn't as drastic as this, especially under new MUPC rules, there potentially can be a ring of truth to this process if one isn't careful in their pre planning.

Other disadvantages include:

  • Loss of privacy: your probate file in the Court is a matter of public record, therefore your heirs can be targeted by con artists and your will that may contain very personal, intimate information goes on display for the world to see.
  • Will contests: wills are much easier to contest than trusts. When a will is contested, the estate is frozen and the assets are tied up, preventing them from being distributed to your loved ones.
  • Costs and delays: Court equals time and money. The total cost of probate can easily range from 3-10% of your gross estate. In addition, there must be a probate proceeding in every state in which you own real property.

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Q: Why should I go see Attorney Case to set up my Estate Plan?

Not all plans are created equal. Because our firm is a member of Wealth Counsel, LLC, we use specialized software these organizations have developed for estate planning that draws upon the collective knowledge of the top legal minds in the field. Only Wealth Counsel member firms can offer you the benefits of these trademarked trusts.

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Case Estate & Elder Law, PC assists clients in Barnstable County, Dukes County, Nantucket County, and Plymouth County MA; areas include but are not limited to Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Plymouth.

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| Phone: 508-790-3050

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