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Wills, Trusts, Estate Planning, and Probate Services

Everyone has an estate, and planning what to do with that estate is not always easy.  Estate planning needs to be done at every stage of life.  When you die, your estate plan provides your loved ones with your final wishes.  If you do not have an estate plan, then state law will govern how your assets are to be disbursed. This may not be the best plan for your loved ones and takes the control away from you.

Estate planning allows you to organize your assets and financial records in a clear and concise manner. The Law Office of Michael J. Bell, PLLC, can provide you with the peace of mind that you have provided for your loved ones.

Signing Last Will and Testament

Frequently Asked Questions About Wills, Trusts, and Probate Cases

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is a plan that you develop explaining what you would like to happen to your assets in the event of your death or incapacity. It is accomplished by using documents such as wills and trusts to establish your beneficiaries and executor.

What is a will?

A will is a written document that outlines your final wishes. It takes effect upon your death. It appoints an executor to oversee the distribution of your assets. It tells the executor how to distribute your assets. If you have children that are still minors, it can appoint a guardian for them.

What happens if you die without a will?

If you die without a will, you have died “intestate”. Since you have not left instructions, state law governs how your assets are to be distributed. This may or may not be how you would like your assets to be distributed among your loved ones.

What do you need to do before I create a will?

The first thing that you need to consider before creating a will is how do you want to take care of your loved ones.  You will want to take time to write down a list of your assets and who is to receive them.  This includes not only real estate and personal property but also any financial accounts or digital assets that you may have.

What is the difference between a will and a trust?

A will is your final wishes as to how your assets are to be distributed after you die. A will does not own your assets.

A trust becomes the legal owner of any assets that you transfer to the trust. A trust is used to protect your assets from creditors while you are alive. It also gives you more control of your assets after you die.

How often should I update my estate plan?

An estate plan is something that needs to be reviewed periodically. As your life changes, so do your estate plans. The best time to have your estate plans reviewed is whenever you have a life-changing event.

What is incapacity planning?

Incapacity planning is planning for the event that you are not able to make decisions for yourself, either temporarily or permanently. This could be because of injury, illness, or old age. By planning for your own incapacity, you can appoint the person that you trust the most to make decisions on your own behalf.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process where a deceased person’s will is submitted for validation. A personal representative for the estate is appointed who gathers your assets, compiles a list of your heirs or beneficiaries, and distributes your assets accordingly. During this period, claims can be made against your estate for any debts that you may have owed.

What is the difference between probate assets and non-probate assets?

Assets that are solely owned by you and are to be distributed according to your will are probate assets. Assets that are owned by you and another person are non-probate assets. The surviving person receives that asset regardless of what your will states. Assets that can be jointly owned include real estate or financial accounts. Insurance policies or other accounts that have a beneficiary are also non-probate assets.

Can I plan to avoid probate?

Depending on how your assets are titled, you may be able to avoid probate. There are a lot of reasons to avoid probate. The most common reason is to simplify the transfer process and avoid any probate fees. The easiest way to avoid probate is by creating joint ownership, using a trust, or naming beneficiaries on financial and insurance accounts.

Who is responsible for handling probate?

A personal representative is appointed to oversee your estate. In your will, you can appoint who you would like it to be. If you die without a will, then the law decides who can be appointed as your personal representative. This is usually a close relative, but it can be anyone. It is in your best interest and your loved ones’ best interest for you to appoint an executor under a will.

What happens to my business when I die?

As the owner of a business, you must be prepared for every eventuality. A business succession plan is a plan that makes sure your business continues after your death. This is basically a plan that sets forth who will take over your business when you die. It also sets forth basic information about your company to help with the succession process.

Do you need legal help or consultance? Contact us now.


“I intend to live forever or die trying.”

– Groucho Marx