One of the most personal legal practice areas when it comes to hiring an attorney is found in estate planning. This is where people make their move to prepare for the inevitable, ensure that their families are taken care of, and establish their final wishes. Because this is such a personal conversation to have, it’s important to find the right Greenville, SC estate planning attorney for you. Asking a few key questions will get you started in the right direction.Questions About Estate Planning
Do I need to have a will?
A will is important to have because it is a legal document that contains all of your wishes for how you want your assets to be distributed. It also makes it possible for an individual to enact these wishes and ensure that everything is handled as stated in the will, and allows for you to determine how things go instead of allowing legal default to handle it all without a will.
To illustrate how this can be important, imagine a situation where you have three children, and one has special needs. Legal default would be to distribute your assets among the children, but you may want the child with special needs to receive a larger amount to cover the expenses of his or her care over time. Another example would be a desire to contribute to charities with your assets or leave something to a close friend. Wishes like these will not be upheld without a will.
What if I don’t have a will?
If you don’t have a will at the time that you die in the state of South Carolina, then your assets are going to be passed along in accordance with the laws of the state. Death without a will is called intestate succession, and when this happens, the deceased person’s spouse and/or descendants will inherit everything. If there is both a spouse and descendants, then the spouse gets half of the intestate property, and the descendants receive the rest. If there are no spouse or children, then the parents of the deceased, and after them, the siblings, receive the intestate property.
Can the state get my property?
If you pass away without a will and you have no family to inherit your property, then this property ‘escheats’ to the state. That means that the state becomes the heir of your property and receive it. This is extremely rare because it is not common for someone to pass away without leaving behind some kind of family member, no matter how distant. To completely avoid this, you can write a will that states clearly where you would like your assets to go.
What is included in a will?
A will expresses how you want your financial assets to be distributed, but it also expresses how you want your assets to be handled for funeral expenses, final debts, or even caring for pets or continuing to fund projects that you care about in life. You can also use your will to forgive debts, to choose someone to execute your will and wishes, and to name guardians and plan the future for any minor children.
Will my will be valid if I move out of state?
If you draft your will in Greenville, South Carolina, it will be valid no matter where you go. A common misconception is that a will is only valid if you remain in the state where you created it. In reality, estate planning attorneys in Greenville can draft your will to be legally enforceable in every other state. Of course, different states have different laws and processes, so there may be certain provisions that apply to different locations. Having said that, moving to another area will not necessitate rewriting your will. You may want to sit down and review your will periodically anyway, just to make sure that your will is sufficient with the legal requirements of a new state.
What does a trust do?
A trust holds assets on behalf of your beneficiaries. It is a legal document that is created by a grantor and managed by a trustee. The trust can last for a set number of years, for a lifetime, or until the beneficiary reaches a given age. Trusts can be revocable or irrevocable, can take effect during your lifetime or after your death, and can accomplish a variety of goals. If you want to find out more about how a trust can serve to meet various needs, contact a South Carolina estate planning attorney today.
Is a trust better than a will?
Trusts and wills perform different functions, and one is not necessarily better than the other. Some argue that a trust is more powerful, and some argue that a will is simpler. The reality is that both of these documents are valuable in a well organized estate plan. To determine their place in your own plan, discuss your goals and wishes with a South Carolina estate planning attorney.
What is probate and can I avoid it?
Probate is the legal process of transferring your property to your heirs. The process ensures that all claims against the estate and all claims owing to the estate have been settled, and to ensure that the title is given to the rightful heirs of your estate. If your case is complicated, then this can be a particularly lengthy process, and most would rather avoid it.
The good news is that not everything you own has to go through probate. For example, there are payable-on-death accounts and beneficiary designations. Any property that is transferred into a trust, any life insurance proceeds, any retirement funds, any money in payable-on-death bank accounts, and any jointly owned properties will not have to go through probate.
There are definitely plenty of advantages to avoiding probate, and there are ways that you can avoid it with the help of a qualified South Carolina estate planning attorney. When your property is in probate, it is like being in limbo, where nobody can manage it. In cases of small businesses, this can be devastating. Probate also costs money because of court fees, and in more complicated cases, it can be a lot of money. Probate takes place in the court system which makes it public, something that most would like to avoid as much as the time and cost of probate. It is in your best interests and the best interests of your beneficiaries to avoid probate with adequate estate planning.
When should I update my estate plan?
It is wise to periodically review and update your estate plan. Life change, and your plans and wishes may change. Your assets may change, and even the beneficiaries may change. View estate planning as an ongoing process, rather than one that you finish and never look at again. Most estate planning attorneys recommend that you review your plan every few years to address changes, like divorce, new children, financial changes, and anything else that may happen in life.