Frequently Asked Questions
Relevant Questions & Answers. You might find the following questions and answers to be helpful:

1. What is an Estate Plan?
2. What is a Will?
3. Why should I make a will?
4. Are all of my assets controlled by my Will when I die?
5. What is Probate?
6. What is an Advance Health Care Directive?

Answers

1. What is an Estate Plan?
Answer: It is an important planning process for you and your family, determining who can make financial and medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself as well as which assets your family members receive upon your death. Your estate plan may include one or more of these documents: Will, Durable Power of Attorney (for financial decisions), and Advance Health Care Directive. You must plan carefully, which requires you to consider your current finances, family situation, and desires.

You should also review any beneficiary designations on your life insurance policies, retirement plans and accounts, and IRAs to ensure they are correct and reflect your current desires as to who should receive the proceeds.

2.What is a Will?
Answer: A Will is a legal document that states your desires concerning what will happen to your assets after your death. A Will also contains other specific directions from you concerning who is to implement your instructions and, perhaps, who will care for any minor children you may leave behind. A Will is especially important for parents with young children—you should name a guardian (and alternates) for your children in case the other parent predeceases you while one or more of your children is a minor. A will is valid until you physically destroy it or execute a new one.

3.Why should I make a Will?
Answer: If you die without a valid Will, the laws of your state of legal residence determine what happens to your assets. Your wishes will not be considered and, therefore, your assets may go where you don’t want them to go.

4. Are all of my assets controlled by my Will when I die?
Answer: NO. For example, proceeds of life insurance policies and retirement plan assets are distributed as you already directed in a beneficiary designation form. A bank account that you own jointly with another person normally goes to the other owner. It is extremely important that you coordinate the disposition of these assets with the disposition of your other assets as directed in your Will.

5. What is Probate?
Answer: Probate is a court procedure by which a Will is proved to be valid or invalid. The probate process accomplishes the transfer of your assets from your name to your beneficiaries under your Will and gives your creditors an opportunity to be paid from your assets. A Will does not generally avoid probate. Probate only includes assets in your own name alone without any beneficiary designation. If there are not enough assets in your probate estate, non-probate assets (life insurance and retirement accounts with beneficiary designations) may be used to pay any unpaid estate expenses.

6. What is an Advance Health Care Directive?
Answer: This directive is separate from your Will, but nonetheless is an important part of your estate plan. In the event that you have a terminable, incurable condition or are otherwise incapacitated, the directive, through your designated agent, communicates your desires as to continued life support, medical decisions, and, if designated, disposition of your body and/or organs upon death. Once executed, the directive is effective until you revoke it by physical destruction or execution of a new directive.