Will Kits and Forms

A will is not a good do-it-yourself project. The cost of working around a minor mistake in a will can far exceed the cost of having a will properly prepared by an attorney.

Nevertheless, will kits and forms are widely available on the Internet, in bookstores, office supply stores, and other places. People can be attracted to these products by their apparent simplicity and low cost, but it’s important to use them with caution. Always have an attorney review any …

Prepare Your Estate Plan Case Studies

Prepare Your Estate Plan Case Studies

Do you have concerns about property-distribution issues? Discuss these particular situations with your adult children, trusted friends, or parent/guardian. Each case study includes a quiz. The correct responses are provided for each case for residents of Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Case Study 3 – The disadvantages of writing your own will

Case Study 4 – The surviving spouse’s share

Case Study 5 – How much will each heir inherit?

Case

Types of Wills

Image of an ink pen and eyeglasses on a handwritten document


There are several types of wills:

Attested wills are the most common type of wills. An attested will is usually prepared by a lawyer in typewritten form and signed in front of several witnesses who have no benefit in the will. All of the witnesses must sign it in front of one another and in front of the person making the will. The will-maker must also sign it in front of all of the witnesses. All of the previously mentioned …

Prepare Your Estate Plan: Print this Lesson

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Return to the Prepare Your Estate Plan learning lesson.

1. Prepare Your Estate Plan — Introduction

How will your assets be distributed upon your death? Have you prepared for the distribution of your estate for the loved ones you will leave behind? Perhaps you have …

Types of Trusts

Image of a family with grandparents included


Each of the various types of trusts available has particular advantages. An estate attorney can advise you about the type of trust that is most appropriate for you and your family situation. The testamentary trust and living trust will be discussed here.

A testamentary trust is a legal instrument contained in the will that sets up the management of assets for one or more beneficiaries following the death of the person creating the trust (grantor). This type of trust is …

Steps in the Probate Process

Steps in the probate process include:

  • Petition for probate of the will or administration of the estate
  • Appointment of a personal representative
  • Notice to creditors
  • Assembly, inventory, and appraisal of property
  • Classification and payment of demands against the estate (such as debts of the decedent and liens against his or her property)
  • Determination of homestead rights and family allowances
  • Management (and sale, if necessary) of property
  • Payment of state and federal taxes
  • Accounting to the court and distribution of property

Property Transfer

A person signing an insurance document

Several tools and planning options are available to ensure that your money, possessions, and real estate are passed on as you would like. All of these legal arrangements have advantages and disadvantages. Use of one or a combination of these tools will be based on your circumstances, your wishes, and the way in which you want to protect your loved ones after death.

Beneficiary Designation: Some assets pass by means other than a will; these include insurance policies, Individual Retirement …

Property Ownership

A house


When you begin estate planning, it is important to understand property and the property rights associated with its ownership. The form of property ownership has an important impact on the degree of control during life, as well as how property will be taxed and distributed after death.

All estates are made up of property. It may be tangible property, intangible property, real property, or a combination of the three.

Tangible personal property is property that can be touched or felt, …

Probate Process

Male judge seated in a courtroom


When someone dies owning property (real property as well as tangible and intangible personal property), the law provides a legal procedure for settling the estate. This procedure, commonly called “probate,” involves:

  • determining what property the person owned and its value
  • determining what debts the person owed
  • distributing or assigning title of the person’s property to its new rightful owners

Federal and state estate taxes are also determined, although these must be paid even if no probate procedure is required.

Not …

Prepare Your Estate Plan: Lesson Objectives

In this lesson you will:

  • Learn what is included in an estate plan
  • Gain a basic understanding of estate-planning tools:
  • Power of Attorney
  • Property Ownership
  • Wills
  • Probate
  • Estate Taxes/Gifts
  • Trusts
  • Receive suggestions for hiring and working with an attorney
  • Increase your knowledge by reviewing several case studies

Have you put off making plans to distribute your property when you die?

There are many financial and emotional reasons for having an estate plan. Just think about the suffering and expense family …