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What Is an Estate and Do I Have or Need One?

Last will and testament

What comes to mind when you hear the word, “estate”? Some may think of Tara in Gone With the Wind, or a scene from Downton Abbey. You may not think you have an estate, but if you have any assets, you need to take the concept of estate seriously. In the Reading / Berks County area, Attorney Scott C. Painter is ready to answer your estate, will, and related questions. Read on to find out why this is important now.

What is an estate?

An estate is basically everything you own and control; it’s the net worth of a person. To find out the value of your estate, you add up the worth of all your possessions, land, investments, collectibles, furnishings, etc. — anything with current or future economic value. Then, you subtract the things you owe, such as a mortgage, loan, finance charge, etc. The result is the value of your estate.

So you see, everyone has an estate, large or small. In some cases, the liabilities may outweigh the assets. This could be a problem when a person passes away.

What should I do now?

For the sake of your estate and the distribution of your assets when you die, you will need legal help with estate planning. This refers to planning how your assets will be distributed when you pass away. They won’t just disappear. As the old saying goes, “You never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul®.” If you have family, friends, charities, and other interests to whom you want to leave your assets to, it’s best to make those plans known ahead of time via a will or living trust or both.

A will is a legal document that gives instructions about how an individual’s affairs should be handled after death. An executor is assigned who will make sure the instructions are carried out. A will takes effect only after the passing of the individual.

A trust is a relationship in which the trustor (in this case, you) gives another party (trustee) the right to hold title to your assets for the benefit of a third party (beneficiary). This provides legal protection for your assets, or estate, to make sure they are handled according to your wishes.

The creation and execution of wills and trusts can be complicated, especially because local laws vary. The differences between wills and trusts, and the pitfalls of having neither when you die, must be clarified by a competent legal expert. Reading’s elder law specialist is Attorney Scott C. Painter, P.C.

If you have an issue or question, we encourage you to call us. With legal matters, time is of the essence. Call us for a consultation at 610-378-5140. The $300 consultation fee is waived if Attorney Painter is retained to perform services.