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Estate Planning

Tips for Estate Planning - Common Terms, What You Should Include, & More

Most of us don't enjoy thinking about what will happen to our estates when we're gone, but building an estate plan is vital if you want to preserve your legacy. Today, we're covering common terms you'll come across while estate planning, as well as how you can leverage documents such as wills and trusts to protect your estate and ease your passing for friends, family, and loved ones.

We'll work with you to draft legally binding estate planning documents such as a will or trust. To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (412) 281-1988.

Common Estate Planning Terms

As you start drafting your estate plan, you'll want to be aware of the following terms:

  • Decedent. A decedent is someone who has died.
  • Testator. A testator is the owner and author of a living will or last will and testament.
  • Trustee. A trustee is the individual in charge of a trust, whether it's revocable, irrevocable, separate, or joint.
  • Successor trustee. Successor trustees take over trusts when the trustee passes away.
  • Probate court. After an individual dies, a probate court will initiate the probate process to ensure their last wishes are fulfilled, and their estate is properly handled.
  • Personal representatives/executors. A testator appoints these individuals in a will to administrate their estate and oversee the probate process after they become a decedent.
  • Financial power of attorney. This establishes who cares for a testator's estate and financial wellbeing if they become incapacitated or cannot make decisions for themselves.
  • Healthcare power of attorney. This establishes who cares for a testator's health and medical care if they become incapacitated or cannot make decisions for themselves.
  • Beneficiary. Testators and trustees identify beneficiaries as individuals they want to award property to using their estate plan.

Estate Planning Tip #1: Utilize a Living Will

Most people are familiar with the last will and testament - a document that details last wishes and how a testator would like to distribute their estate on death.

However, many people neglect to utilize living wills, which enable them to set up healthcare and financial powers of attorney. Doing so can give you invaluable peace of mind and ensure you receive the care you deserve if you become incapacitated and toward the end of your life, so don't neglect a living will as part of your estate plan.

Tip #2: Manage Outstanding Debts Now

Once your estate goes into probate, creditors will have the opportunity to seize any outstanding debts. They can do this in various ways, including seizing and liquidating property intended in your will for beneficiaries.

If you have outstanding debts, either settle them or account for their value when creating your will so beneficiaries don't unexpectedly have their inheritance stripped to pay off debts.

Tip #3: Leverage Trusts

Property stored in trusts doesn't go through probate, making trusts a powerful tool for awarding property to beneficiaries while simultaneously making probate easier for your executor or personal representative. Make sure to consult your estate planning lawyer to utilize the full potential of your trust.

Tip #4: Don't Underestimate Family Drama

It's not uncommon for family members to air long-hidden grievances during the probate process, even going so far as to contest the validity of a will.

Ensure you go through the proper steps to draft a legally binding will that prevents any family members from making life harder for your friends, family and loved ones.

Tip #5: Consider Investing in Estate Administration

You can hire an estate administration attorney to help your executor or personal representative manage the probate process, validate your will, and ensure your estate is properly distributed.

It's not necessary for everyone, but if you own a complex estate, it could relieve a considerable burden from your loved ones.

At Notaro Calabrese & Epstein, our estate planning attorneys can help you draft a comprehensive estate plan that safeguards your legacy.

To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (412) 281-1988.