Do I need an attorney?
While an attorney is not required, the state has specific requirements that need to be met in order to validate these documents. An attorney will ensure that your wishes are met, while also complying with state laws and regulations.
Do I need an estate plan?
You do not NEED an estate plan. However, if you have minor children, property you care about, specific wishes about distribution of assets, or pets that need cared for, it is highly recommended that you meet with an attorney to plan your estate.
What happens if you don’t have an estate plan?
The state has a process for distributing assets if you do not leave a will/trust. This is called Intestate Probate. How your assets are distributed depends on who survives you. However, the court does not take into account any special requests unless they are left in a will or trust.
Also, if both parents or legal guardians die without appointing another guardian, the state will appoint someone. Step-parents do not automatically become guardians. You must appoint them.
Probate can be a long process. One that can be expedited with estate planning. Finances can be tied up for months while probate court makes decisions. You can protect your family from enduring the long, complex process by stating your wishes in a will or trust.
What types of documents are involved in the estate planning process?
States have different requirements for what makes these documents valid, so it is recommended to work with an attorney to ensure you are covered.
A will – Often called a Last Will and Testament, this instrument becomes active upon your death and is used to distribute any assets, appoint an Executor to oversee the will, and appoint a guardian for minor children.
A Living will – While it sounds similar to a “will” this document is very different. A living will is a written statement that details a person’s wishes for medical treatment, life saving measures and end of life decisions. This document may describe treatments you do, or do not want.
Durable power of attorney for health care – This power is given to a person you trust to make medical decisions for you in an emergency. While a living will is important, if there isn’t someone appointed to make sure those wishes are carried out, it can be overlooked. This agent is someone who will ensure your wishes in your living will are followed. They also will be able to communicate with medical professionals on your behalf, and will have access to your medical records. This agent may also be called a “Health Proxy” or “Medical power of attorney”
Durable Power of Attorney for Property – This may appoint someone you trust to make financial decisions for you if you are unable.
Living trust – This trust is established and valid while you are still living. You can select a person, or appoint yourself, as Trustee of the Trust, to manage money and carry out instructions. This type of trust is effective immediately, and remains valid through any incapacitation or death. Often, this type of trust may be changed or revoked during your lifetime. (An irrevocable trust is much more difficult to change).
Testamentary Trust – This type of trust is contained in the last will and testament and it only goes into effect when the grantor (person making the trust) dies. This document is often used to create a trust for minors that will benefit from the grantors death. Often, the trust terminates when the last named beneficiary turns 25. This document may also specify how the money is to be used (i.e. for your child’s education). This document does not avoid probate, because the money is not transferred into the trust until the grantor’s death, and probate is needed to grant that transfer.
What is legal separation?
Similar to divorce, the court enters orders of property division, custody, and child support, but does not dissolve the marriage. This court order can be undone, whereas divorce cannot.
What is “no-fault” divorce?
The state abolished the requirement to find “fault” in order to grant a divorce. With this requirement abolished, the couple only needs to prove that the marriage has broken down beyond the possibility of repair. However, this does not mean that one cannot still file for “fault.”Fault grounds may still be claimed for intolerable cruelty, habitual drunkenness, or adultery.
What is the difference between conservator, guardian, and power of attorney?
A conservator is only appointed for an adult who is not capable of making financial or personal decisions. This may be a voluntary decision or may be a position appointed by Probate court.
A conservator of the person is responsible for personal care, comfort and maintenance, medical decisions, changing the conserved person’s residence, and safeguarding personal effects.
A conservator of the estate is responsible for handling the financial affairs of the conserved person.
My house is my name only and I want it to be in my husband and my name. How do we do that?
This happens often. A conveyance actually occurs from one spouse, to both spouses. A quit claim deed is drawn up, filed with town hall and the state.
It is my first DUI, what will happen to me?
There is a Pretrial Alcohol Education Program only eligible for first time offenders. Acceptance into the program is not guaranteed, and does cost money. However, if accepted, and program successfully completed, the charges may be dismissed. Completion of the program is kept on file at the DMV for 10 years, to prevent repeat offenders.
What happens if I am not accepted into the program, or it is my second offense?
A first real conviction, either from not being accepted into the program, or the offense after a successful completion of the program, can lead to up to 6 months in prison, with a mandatory minimum of two days, or up to six months suspended sentence with probation requiring 100 hours of community service. It also comes with a fine of $500-$1,000. Also, a license suspension of 45 days, with one year of driving only a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device (IID).
I received an infraction/violation, what do I do now?
You may choose to plead guilty and pay the fine, in which case, you do not need to go to court, and the infraction/violation will remain on your record. However, if you wish to plead not guilty, you may have to go to court.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. A neutral third party facilitates a productive discussion. A mediator is not a fact-finder, instead he/she facilitates a conversation between the parties. This often leads to final agreements that both parties actually agree to.
What kinds of cases can be mediated?
Some examples of cases that are eligible for mediation are small claims, divorces, support/visitation modifications, and landlord/tenant. Mediation may also be helpful before civil claims arise. For example, disputes between neighbors, business partners, and labor unions.
I was in a motor vehicle accident, how will I pay for everything?
The victim of an motor vehicle accident is entitled to reasonable compensation for injuries, medical bills, car repairs, lost wages, pain and suffering and future pain and suffering, when appropriate.
The insurance company says I don’t need an attorney, is that true?
Just remember, the interest of the insurance company is not the same as yours. While you legally can settle your claim without an attorney, you may want an attorney to fight for your interests.