Estate Planning and Probate Attorneys

Planning how your estate will be handled can be a confusing process, and we are honored to help you navigate that process while reducing the costs to you and your loved ones. Proper estate planning can ensure that your wishes are honored and help avoid lengthy and expensive court processes. Even without significant financial assets, having these documents drafted can provide a lot of comfort and guidance in making decisions for your finances and health care.

In our representation, we help to further your estate planning goals through drafting wills, trusts, power of attorney, advanced health care directives, and other estate planning tools.

We also practice in Probate, the process where the Court distributes your loved-one's estate. Probate is sometimes necessary to transfer real estate or other assets where the Deceased was the only legal owner, such as on a property deed or bank account. It's a common misconception that property immediately passes to whom it is designated within a will, or even automatically to the Deceased's spouse or children. The Probate process helps spouses and minor children inherit some assets first before the Deceased's debts, and makes sure all of the Deceased's property is correctly transferred.
Whether Probate is necessary depends on the value of the estate, the assets within (whether real estate, bank accounts, mineral rights, etc.), and whether your loved-one had an estate plan. Many estates qualify for Summary Distribution, a faster version of Probate for estates valued under $200,000.00. We are happy to help navigate this process.

Differences between a Will and a Trust

Many people are confused about the differences between a Last Will and Testament and a Trust. A Will dictates how your property will be distributed, and it is effective only after death. Depending on the value and type of property within your estate, this may mean your estate will need to go to Probate. Not to fear! Through our other estate planning tools, we can draft your estate plan to avoid the necessity of many of your assets transferring through Probate.

A Trust, however, can be effective during your lifetime, as well as direct how your property will be distributed after your death. Trusts are great tools for dictating how your property can be used for your benefit, even if you become incapacitated and can no longer make financial decisions for yourself. Trusts can also be drafted to control the distribution of your assets, such as making sure your children do not inherit everything at once, or ensuring that the money can only be used for education. If your assets are properly transferred into a Trust, Probate is usually unnecessary.

Give us a call to schedule an appointment to discuss the best estate planning option for you.

Power of Attorney - what does it do?

A Power of Attorney grants another person the authority to manage your affairs, such as manage your bank account, file your taxes, and other legal functions ordinarily only you can do. You can grant a Power of Attorney to a spouse to enable them to purchase property in your name if you are unable to attend the closing. A Power of Attorney can also be used to grant the power to access your bank account to pay your bills if you become sick or incapacitated.

Granting a Power of Attorney can help avoid the necessity of your family members needing to obtain a legal guardianship or conservatorship over you if you become incapacitated. It can also be much more advantageous than adding someone to your bank account – if they get into trouble, their creditors can take all of your money!

A Power of Attorney designation is only effective during your lifetime, so granting someone that authority does not keep you from leaving your estate to someone else.

Once known as a “Living Will,” an Advanced Health Care Directive allows you to make your wishes about your health care known, and designate an agent to assist in making those decisions if you are unable to do so. These directives can be very comforting to your loved-ones so they can ensure your wishes are followed.

We are happy to assist you in drafting the estate plan that best fits you.