Frequently Asked Questions
Guidance from Our Tallahassee Estate Planning Attorney
Planning for the future means confronting numerous uncertainties, but when you are looking to establish a will or trust, one thing you should be sure about is what your options are and how to best protect you and your loved one's interests. Below, we have compiled some of the most common questions Brooks, LeBoeuf, Bennett, Foster & Gwartney, P.A. receives from estate planning clients and provided answers from our experienced Tallahassee estate planning lawyer. For further assistance with your estate planning matter, call our offices at (850) 222-2032 today.
What Is "Estate Planning?"
Estate planning is the act of organizing your existing estate and deciding how to allocate it in the event of your passing. These decisions are recorded in a document called a will. Estate plans should be updated as necessary and established when you are healthy and able to make your own decisions. Once someone passes away, their will goes into probate, which is the legal process of resolving an estate. If there is a viable will, it will be followed. If there isn't a will, the state will decide how to distribute an estate.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of resolving an estate. Resolving means distributing assets to beneficiaries, but also means addressing the estate's debts and tax burdens. Once someone passes away, their will is submitted to probate court for confirmation of its validity. Once confirmed, the will's instructions can be followed. If the will isn't valid (or a will doesn't exist), the court will decide how to resolve an estate. If you have been named the personal representative to your loved one's estate or you need a personal representative named for the probate process, call Attorney Carolyn LeBouef today for assistance.
Why Do I Need a Will?
It's a common misconception that only wealthy people need a will. In reality, a comprehensive will can be beneficial for any estate and any family dealing with the death of a loved one. A will eliminates many uncertainties about how to distribute an estate, for example, which can minimize unnecessary conflict between beneficiaries. A will is legally binding, which why it is important to update them when there are major changes in your life (divorce, new grandchildren, retirement, etc.).
What Is a Trust?
A trust is legally binding agreement that places certain assets under the protection of trustee to be collected by a beneficiary at a later date. The most common circumstance trusts are used for are to delay a significant inheritance to a beneficiary until they are an age where they are presumably mature enough to handle it (otherwise, anyone 18 and older can receive an inheritance). Trusts can also dole out inheritances in installments and be established to limit tax burdens, as well. To learn more about your trust options, call our offices today.
Why Do I Need an Attorney to Draft My Will?
Wills and trusts are legally binding documents. While it might be tempting to write your own wills or trusts, hiring an attorney is highly advised. A knowledgeable legal counselor knows the very specific requirements these documents must meet to be viable in court. An attorney also knows the law and knows what considerations clients need to address to best protect and organize their estate. Many wills and trusts that are drafted without the help of a legal counselor are thrown out in court and cause further disarray for the family and beneficiaries.
Can a Will Be Contested?
Yes. It is possible to contest a loved one's will in the probate process if you believe that it is invalid in some way. There are numerous grounds to do this, including:
Lack of Capacity
Was your loved one in a healthy state of mind when the will was established or last amended? Did they have the mental competency to make sound decisions? Proving that your loved one had a medical condition such as dementia or Alzheimer's at the time the will was last amended can be instrumental into voiding the will in probate court.
Do you believe your loved one was under the influence of someone who did not have their best interests at heart at the time a will was established? If you can prove that your loved one was coerced or compelled to execute a will, the will can be found void.
Insane delusion can be argued if your loved one based decisions in their will on things that are untrue. This is similar to a "Lack of Capacity" argument, but not always as reliant on a prior diagnosis.
Lack of Proper Formality
It can be argued that a will is invalid if it has not been properly executed by the deceased or their legal counsel. In some cases, it can be argued that a will has not been adequately drafted, witnessed, or signed for it to be upheld in probate court.
Have more questions about estate planning? Contact our offices today to request a consultation with our attorney—we're ready to hear from you.