Estate Planning FAQs

What is the difference between a Trustee and an Executor and a Power of Attorney Agent?

1 1) A Trustee manages the assets that are owned by a trust, generally a house and any financial accounts titled to the Trust

2 2) An executor is nominated in a will to manage the assets that are not in trust and don’t have beneficiaries, and are therefore required to go through probate (if valued at more than $150,000).

3) A Power of Attorney document designates an agent, also called an Attorney in Fact, who has power over another person’s finances while they’re alive but unable to manage them.

Do I need a Power of Attorney if I have an Advanced Directive?

A Power of Attorney, also called a Durable Power of Attorney, is to name someone else to manage your finances. The most common reason is for it to be used if you become incapacitated. A Power of Attorney can also be used for specific purposes such as if you will be traveling and you need someone to sign documents for you in your absence.

An Advanced Health Care Directive, also called a Living Will or Healthcare Power of Attorney, is to name someone else to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

Do I need both a Trust and a Will?

A Trust only has power over the assets that are owned by the Trust. When you have a trust a pourover will is commonly created as a backup document to state that any assets that had not been put in the trust are added to the trust at your death. If you have just a will, it is effective to say who receives your property, but it doesn’t keep the property from having to go through probate.

What is probate?

Probate is the court process that is needed to transfer title to property that is in the name of a deceased person if the property does not have beneficiaries and is not in trust, and is worth more than $150,000.00. The probate process can be time-consuming and costly.

Are there any alternatives to a Trust?

If your house is the only asset that you have that doesn’t already have beneficiaries, and if you want the house to go to one or a few beneficiaries, an alternative is a Transfer on Death Deed. That deed effectively puts a beneficiary on your house title. It is generally less expensive than a trust, but it has limitations. For instance, if your house is owned by two people, then they each need a Transfer on Death Deed, and the TOD deed goes into effect when the last of the two people die. Also, if you are giving the property to two children, for instance, and one of them dies before you, then the only option is that the property would go to the other child. There is no option for having their share pass on to the grandchildren with a Transfer on Death Deed.

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