All of us are mortal and most of us have difficulty discussing the issues surrounding illness, injury, and our death. Unfortunately this can result in a failure to plan leaving the people we love without any guidance and the sole responsibility for managing our personal, financial, and health decisions. This is easily fixed because in most instances a simple estate plan can be completed at little cost by consulting with an attorney. And if a more complicated estate plan is required consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney is a simple way to ensure that your wishes will be carried out. I am Attorney Edward Pepe, and I am dedicated to helping my clients navigate their way through the probate and estate planning process. If you or a family member need further assistance please contact me at anytime to schedule a free consultation. Thank you for visiting, Attorney Pepe.
JUST THE FAQS
When do I need a probate and estate lawyer? Typically a person's first encounter with a probate and estate lawyer is when someone that they love has died. An attorney is needed to guide them through the process of settling the loved one's estate or to help them determine whether or not they are entitled to any property from an estate. It is advisable and smart, to contact an estate planning attorney before tragedy strikes, when you are healthy and mentally competent. This will allow you to adequately plan for your disability or death and ensure that your personal, financial, and health decisions will be done in accordance with your wishes, and with the least emotional and financial toll on your loved ones.
Why should I prepare an estate plan? If you believe that you are responsible for your life and how it affects the people you love then you must discuss an estate plan with any attorney. An estate plan not only includes preparation for the financial consequences of your death, but also provides planning in the event of your disability or serious illness and how medical decisions will be made.
What is the cost of an estate plan? In most instances I can provide the necessary documents for a successful estate plan at little cost. The majority of people do not own financial resources that require a complicated estate plan. Some, however, have significant assets such as a home, savings, joint property, and other assets that require an effective estate plan at a reasonable cost. Please contact me for a free consultation and I will provide you with a free quote.
Can I prepare an estate plan by using a self-help website? You could, but will that provide you with the peace of mind and confidence that an experienced attorney can offer? The law of probate and estate planning is not a simple area of the law. A do-it-yourself approach will most likely result in mistakes and a poorly executed estate plan which can be easily avoided by an experienced and competent attorney.
What are the three most important documents that everyone should have in the event of death, serious illness and disability? A will, durable power of attorney, and health care proxy.
What is a Will and why should I have one? A will is a document that designates how an individual's wealth will be distributed at the time of his or her death after taking into account debts. If an individual fails to make a will prior to death his or her property will be distributed according to the Statutes of Descent and Distribution. In Rhode Island this law can be found in Chapter 33-1 of the Rhode Island General Laws. This law provides an estate plan that specifies the distribution of property to the person's then living heirs without any consideration of that persons wishes. Therefore, if you want to ensure that your properly is distributed according to your specific wishes a Will can accomplish that goal. Also, if you have minor children a will also allows you to appoint a guardian for your minor children to ensure that someone will manage their assets when you are gone.
Are there ways other than a Will to give property to the people I wish after my death? Yes. Certain assets do not pass through a Will and go through the probate process (court procedure that monitors the settling of a person's estate upon their death). These assets consist of property that is held jointly and property with named beneficiaries such as jointly held bank accounts, jointly held real property, life insurance, retirement plans, and other assets. An effective estate plan can include these types of assets and an attorney can advise a person how to use non-probate assets in an estate plan. Furthermore, it is important to understand that any directive in a will does not have an effect on a beneficiary designation in a non-probate asset. For e.g. if your life insurance policy gives the proceeds to your son and your Will gives it to your Wife, the provision in your Will is ignored and the life insurance proceeds will be given to your son.
What is a Durable Power of Attorney and why do I need one? A Durable Power of Attorney is a document that gives another individual or individuals the power to manage your financial affairs in the event of your disability. The power is called a durable one because it survives your disability. This document can spare your loved ones or close friends the burden of applying to a probate court for guardianship to manage your financial affairs upon your disability. Guardianship proceedings in a probate court can be burdensome because it involves significant legal costs and compliance with rules of procedure which include yearly accountings and judicial approval. This burden may be avoided with a simple document known as the durable power of attorney.
What is a Health Care Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy and why do I need one? A Health Care Power of Attorney also known as a Health Care Proxy and sometimes called a Living Will is a document that gives an individual that you appoint and trust the authority to carry out your specific wishes should you be diagnosed by a physician to be in a persistent vegetative state without a realistic chance of recovery. Typically the document states that no extraordinary medical procedures or devices such as ventilators will be used to continue life support and that the individual shall be allowed to die in a dignified manner with all available pain medications and relief administered. Without such a document a loved one may have to apply to a court of law to determine what treatment you would have chosen. Some of us are familiar with the famous cases of Karen Ann Quinlan and Terry Schiavo where a court of law attempted to ascertain their wishes regarding end of life medical treatment. Do not leave this responsibility to your loved ones, close friends, or a court of law. See In Re Quinlan, 70 N.J. 10 (1976) at https://www.uta.edu/philosophy/faculty/burgess-jackson/In%20re%20Quinlan,%2070%20N.J.%2010,%20355%20A.2d%20647%20(1976).pdf. For a summary of the case of Terry Schiavo see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terri_Schiavo_case.