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Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to Common Estate Planning Inquiries in Fort Myers

Even at its simplest, estate planning is a complicated area of law. This is because it’s a unique intersection where the law, finances, medical care, and more all meet. When people begin to consider developing an estate plan for the first time, it can be easy for them to quickly feel overwhelmed by all of the planning that needs to go into protecting what’s important to them and their families.

That’s why The Dorcey Law Firm wants clients to feel more confident and in control of their estate plan by providing answers to common questions regarding this topic. Please take some time to review these questions and answers below. If you have a different question or a more nuanced situation on your hands, reach out to us for a free consultation where we can discuss your needs.

Contact The Dorcey Law Firm online or by calling (239) 309-2870 to arrange your free initial consultation today.

  • Q:What is Probate?

    A:"Probate” is the term for a legal process in which a will is reviewed to determine whether it is valid and authentic. Probate also refers to the general administering of a deceased person's will or the estate of a deceased person without a will.

  • Q:What is Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship? (in some states "Tenancy by the Entirety" when between spouses)

    A:Some states call it “Tenancy by the Entirety” when it’s between spouses, but overall this concept is about the most common form of asset ownership that spouses share. Joint Tenancy can avoid probate because the deceased owner’s interest in certain property will automatically transfer to their spouse with whom they share joint tenancy.

  • Q:What is a Will?

    A:A will is a document signed by a testator that outlines how their estate will be divided upon their death. Wills undergo probate to validate their authenticity and have no legal authority unless lawfully prepared and until the testator dies. Everyone with children should have a will, even if they have limited or no financial assets to pass on. 

  • Q:What is a Living Will?

    A:Often also referred to as an Advance Medical Directive, a living will gives you the opportunity to outline how your medical treatment will proceed if you become so seriously ill or injured in the future that you are not capable of answering these questions for your family or doctors. You can pre-determine which lifesaving or life-preserving medical procedures and devices can be used to sustain your life. In many cases, a living will is backed up by a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, which assigns someone you trust with the legal authority to make decisions for your medical treatment on your behalf.

  • Q:What Does Intestacy Mean?

    A:If you pass away without any estate planning whatsoever, or without even a will, you are considered to have died intestate. The same can be said if your will is found to be invalid by a probate judge. Under such a circumstance, the intestacy laws of your state will decide who your heirs are and how they will inherit your assets and property. While some consider dying without a plan to be their plan, not everyone agrees with who the government says should inherit their property, or that it should go through a potentially lengthy and costly probate process. For individuals who want to avoid intestacy, they should at least ensure they have a valid will in place at all times.

  • Q:What are Beneficiary Designations?

    A:Beneficiary designations are asset transfers to your beneficiaries at the time of your death that can avoid probate. There are laws about which assets can be transferred in this manner, but some include life insurance death benefits and the balances of certain bank accounts.

  • Q:What is a Durable Power of Attorney and When do I Need One?

    A:A Durable Power of Attorney grants someone the legal authority to make decisions for your medical care on your behalf. It’s typically prepared in advance and activated in circumstances where you are incapacitated and not able to communicate your wishes. You can assign dually assign this authority to someone while providing a guideline for how they are to direct your care.

  • Q:What is a Revocable Living Trust?

    A:A revocable living trust is an agreement for a trustee to manage assets in a trust created and funded by a trust-maker for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries. Some of these roles can and often overlap: A married couple, for example, can create a trust and manage it for their own benefit as beneficiaries. They can later assign another person to act as a co-trustee to manage the trust for them, as well as assign new beneficiaries to benefit from disbursement upon death.

  • Q:Who Should Have a Recovable Living Trust?

    A:A revocable living trust can help you avoid probate court when you place titled assets such as your house or vehicle in the trust. Anyone can benefit from having a revocable living trust whether they’re young, old, rich, poor, single, or married.

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