Top Questions for an Estate Planner

Here are a few questions that we answer on a weekly basis:

  1. Is my out-of-state will/trust valid?
    • Yes, if it was valid under the laws where it was signed or under the laws where the person lived.
  2. Do I need to file my will with the courts before I die?
    • No, but you can deliver it to the circuit court of the county where you live and pay the $2 fee. The will must be in a sealed envelope showing whose will it is and to whom the circuit court clerk should release the will. You can get your will back any time during your life.
  3. Why can’t I just change my will by hand?
    • Any part of a will that is clearly marked out is revoked. If you no longer want to benefit someone, you can mark through his name and the gift is revoked. HOWEVER, if write something into your will it is not valid. An addition must be signed with the same formality that the whole will was signed. If only the deletions are valid, the changes cause more problems than they fix.
  4. What do we do in second marriages to protect the house for the surviving spouse?
    • A trust for the home with an account to cover major expenses gives the surviving spouse a place to live and can defuse conflict with the stepchildren. The house as one of the largest assets of the estate is often the greatest source of conflict.
  5. How often should I have my will reviewed?
    • A lawyer should review your estate documents every four to five years to see how changing laws affect you. You should also go when the facts in your life change—marriages, divorces, children, and similar events.
  6. I have a simple estate. Do I really need a will?
    • You might.
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