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Frequently Asked Questions about Estate Planning & Probate

What does the term “avoid probate” mean?

Probate is a process in which an estate is opened in a probate court which then subjects the management of the estate to the Court for review and approval at various stages.  To avoid certain expenses and fees resulting from opening an estate in a probate court, an individual can take steps during that individual’s lifetime that would avoid the need to involve a probate court when the person dies.  Those steps and actions are commonly referred to as “avoiding probate”.

Do I need a Will?

The decision as to whether an individual needs a Will is personal to the individual.  However, having a Will provides an individual the ability to designate what happens to his or her assets upon his or her death.  Having a Will further allows an individual to set forth who should act as the executor of the estate.  Finally, in a case of an individual who has minor children, a Will enables the individual to designate a preference for a legal guardian for the children if one becomes necessary.

What is a “Living Will”?

A “Living Will” is a document that enables a person to set forth his or her wishes if determined to be in a certain medical condition by at least two physicians.  The Living Will allows an individual to determine whether he or she, if found to be in a certain medical condition, to designate whether he or she wants artificial nutrition and hydration supplied through a feeding tube, whether that person wants a respirator or other life support to be continued if in that particular medical condition, and allows certain other designations to be made for a person in the previously-mentioned medical condition.

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