Willingham & Coté, P.C.
Estate Planning & Gifts

Proper estate planning, no matter your circumstance, can provide for the orderly and properly supervised management of your assets during your lifetime and transfer of assets to your loved ones upon your death.

For over 55 years, the estate planning attorneys at Willingham & Coté, P.C.’s law office have assisted clients to protect their loved ones through the use of several estate planning strategies.  You never know when you will need your estate plan; however, we do know that everyone needs one.

Proper estate planning, no matter your circumstance, can provide for the orderly and proper management of your assets during your lifetime and transfer of assets to loved ones upon your death.

Without an estate plan, your loved ones will be forced to file petitions in the local probate court in order to properly care for you while you are still alive both financially and medically should something happen to you as well as to obtain the proper authority to handle your affairs after your death.

We have learned many things from the 2020 COVID pandemic, but one of the more important lessons is that courts can shutdown and delay the obtainment of the proper orders to handle our loved one’s medical needs and financial affairs.  Court is not only a time consuming process, but can be expensive for those required to file on your behalf.

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Estate Planning FAQs

What is estate planning?

An estate plan is a prearranged plan that can include either a will or a trust that will designate who should receive your property after you die. This plan is strategically set in place to minimize the potential estate taxes costs associated with settlement and family conflict, while coordinating what will happen to items such as your investments, home and life insurance.

While the typical estate plan deals with the transfer of your assets at your death, to be fully effective a complete estate plan should also include a Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney

What happens if you die without an estate plan?

When someone dies without a will, it means they have died “intestate”. If this happens, the laws of the state are utilized to determine how a person’s property is distributed. These laws vary depending on the status of the deceased person, whether married or single, children or no children. However, typically property is dispersed among “heirs” including spouses and children. Or, if there are none, then parents and siblings, uncles and aunts, and distant relatives, including the deceased individual’s grandparents. In the case that there aren’t any relatives, then the estate will go to the state.

What makes up my “estate”?

Your estate is made up of a variety of items including:

  • Your home
  • Any other personally owned real estate
  • Interest in a business
  • Bank accounts
  • Your portion of joint accounts
  • Stocks
  • Life insurance benefits
  • Retirement plans and IRAs
  • Property owned by a trust in which you have significant control

When should I name a guardian for my children?

A person or persons should be appointed as guardian(s) for children and their property under the age of eighteen. This person(s) will act in lieu of the parents in the case that the children are abandoned or the parents are unable to care for them or deceased.

Why do I need an estate plan?

The importance of an estate plan is to ensure that your assets get distributed to the proper people upon your passing, including spouses, children and grandchildren.

Without a proper estate plan, you gamble that your assets will be distributed to the wrong people.

What are the basic estate planning documents?

Will – a document that specifies how to distribute someone’s property upon death and requires the supervision of probate court.

Trust – a document designating that property be held by the trustee and is to be used to benefit the beneficiary. During one’s lifetime, that person is typically both the trustee and the beneficiary. But, at one’s death a successor trustee is appointed and one’s family members are then typically the beneficiaries.

Power of Attorney – a document that gives one person the legal power to act on behalf of another person.

Medical Power of Attorney – a document that gives authority to one person to make medical decisions on behalf of another person

What is probate?

Probate is the process where a court reviews a will to assess whether it is valid or invalid and then supervises the distribution of the property of a deceased individual.

How do I start putting together an estate plan?

You need to prepare a list of assets to determine the value of your estate.  You need to decide how you want to distribute those assets and think of the right person to handle your affairs after you die.  You also should decide who you want to handle your affairs should you be unable to handle your finances or make medical decisions while you are alive.

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Scott A. Breen

Director
Torree Breen

Torree J. Breen

Director