Assets in a Will

Assets in a will, such as property, can be listed simply or detailed. They may include such non-titled property as family heirlooms and keepsakes, which have much more sentimental than financial value. Oftentimes, distributing family heirlooms and keepsakes presents greater challenges for family members than transferring titled property.

It is important to learn your state’s laws regarding non-titled property transfer. The law varies widely from state to state on what is required to make wishes regarding personal property binding on …

Attorney Ratings

Female attorney

Once you have the names of several lawyers, you can find additional information about them in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, available in many libraries and on the Internet (see The directory contains biographical information, experience, specialties, education, and other professional information. Some attorneys are not listed because they are new to the profession or practice in a rural location where there are too few other attorneys or judges to rate them.

Almost every attorney listed in the directory …

Is a Trust the Right Planning Device for You

The decision to create a trust is a complex one. You will want to discuss your personal needs with financial and legal experts. It is not uncommon for an individual who owns a small parcel of land, a home, and a few investments to have an estate that exceeds the federal estate-tax limits, resulting in large tax implications. In addition, if you own assets that require ongoing management, such as rental property, a trust may help facilitate their management in …

Planning for Your Estate

Family silhouette in front of a clock

Estate planning is arranging for the orderly transfer of your property and resources to other people during life and after death. Your estate is essentially everything that you own. Your property and resources can be transferred through beneficiaries identified in documents (i.e., pensions and life insurance policies), wills, trusts, gifts, and joint ownership of property—all of which can be part of an estate plan.

Since you may accumulate many resources during your lifetime, you will probably want to decide to …

Changing a Will


It is sometimes necessary to change a will. A codicil is a legal document that amends a will. You might find it necessary to make changes when the following events occur:

  • Marriage, remarriage, or divorce
  • Birth of a child
  • Move to another state
  • Acquisition of additional assets
  • Changes in federal and state laws

Divorce and separation can affect a will. In some states, divorce can revoke the entire will. In other states, it revokes only those provisions in the will …

Common Types of Powers of Attorney

A person taking an oath in a court of law

Power of Attorney: This document is commonly known as a financial power of attorney and gives one person (the agent) authority to act on behalf of another person (the principal). Full power or limited power can be granted in the document.

Attorney-in-fact: A person who is given authority by a power of attorney; sometimes called an agent. This person does not have to be a lawyer. It could be your spouse, an adult child, or close friend.

Durable Power of

Prepare Your Estate Plan

African-American couple

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 made plans to distribute your estate, and they need to be reviewed and updated. In any case, you can proceed through this lesson and learn more.

This lesson has unique sections that lead you through the learning process and can be viewed sequentially or in a random order. Select a unit …

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

doctor conferring with older male patient as son listens

A durable power of attorney for health care allows you to choose someone (generally referred to as a health-care or medical “agent,” “representative,” or “proxy”) who will make health-care decisions for you when you can no longer communicate. You may designate your spouse, another family member, a close personal friend, or other trusted person of legal age—preferably, someone who lives near you. Talk to the person you choose to be sure he or she is capable of carrying out your …

Communicate Your Advance Directives for Health Care

grandparents and grandchild, a smiling couple

If you had a serious accident or illness that caused permanent loss of mental capacity, leaving you unable to tell your doctor which medical treatments you did or did not want, would your loved ones know what to do? Who would make these decisions for you? If you couldn’t make your wishes known, how could you make sure they were respected?

If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t taken time to complete or discuss documents known as advance directives …

Legal Records

legal records papers

Although you may change your will whenever you wish, there are three basic reasons to consider revising it:

  • There has been a change in your life.
  • There has been a change in the law.
  • You have changed your mind about specific provisions (for example, including or excluding a friend or family member to be a beneficiary of your property).

Life events that may trigger the need to update your will, trust, living will, powers of attorney, or other estate- or …