Frequently Asked Questions
- What is elder law?
- What is estate planning?
- What does an estate plan include?
- What is probate?
- What are the advantages of avoiding probate?
- What is a will?
- What does intestacy mean?
- What is a trust?
- What is a power of attorney?
What is elder law?
Elder law is an area of legal practice that encompasses a wide range of legal matters impacting the senior population.
As the elderly population has grown, more attorneys have identified specific needs of seniors that are more specialized than younger adults.
Generally, elder law issues fall into three major categories: financial, home place, and health care.
An elder law attorney is qualified to provide guidance in a number of areas, including:
- Estate planning
- Social Security
- Veterans benefits
- Health and personal care
- Powers of attorney
- Elder and abuse fraud
- Wills and trusts
What is estate planning?
- Determining the heirs to your estate
- Reducing the tax burden on your estate
- Determining the personal guardian of your children
- Ensuring the timely passing of your assets to your designated beneficiaries
What does an estate plan include?
- An adequate will or trust
- A durable power of attorney
- Medical directives to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf
- A written agreement concerning the distribution of your assets
What is probate?
Probate is the legal process a court takes to conclude an individual’s legal and financial matters upon death.
The court ensures that all outstanding debts, legal fees, and taxes are paid and that all assets have been catalogued and appraised before being distributed.
Probate usually involves paperwork and court appearances by attorneys. Attorney and court fees are paid from the estate, which would otherwise go to the beneficiaries who inherited the deceased person’s property.
What are the advantages of avoiding probate?
The probate process tends to be very time consuming. Since it is controlled by the courts, it can end up taking more than a year to complete.
Although it varies by state, probate is also very costly. Probate fees are taken from the estate and typically costs between 5-10% of the total value of the estate.
Finally, probate is a public process. So all documents and information used during the process is part of the public record, which can be a problem if you would prefer the details of your estate be left private.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document dictating your final wishes regarding the distribution of your assets upon death as well as the care of any minor children.
Wills must go through probate before its provisions can be implemented.
A will can be modified or revoked at any time during your life
What does intestacy mean?
What is a trust?
A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that involves the transfer of property to a third party – known as a trustee – to hold and use assets for the benefit of a beneficiary.
Unlike wills, trusts typically avoid probate so the beneficiaries may receive assets more quickly than they would through a will.
What is a power of attorney?
A power of attorney is a written document that grants an individual the authority to manage your affairs – typically in regards to financial or medical matters – as an attorney-in-fact if you are unable to do so.
Typically, a power of attorney terminates when its purpose is fulfilled or at your death or incapacity. However, a durable power of attorney remains in effect even if you are incapacitated.