Answers to Common Questions

Should I leave written instructions about my final ceremonies and the disposition of my body?

Letting your loved ones know your wishes saves them the difficulties of making these decisions at a painful time in their lives. Many family members and friends find that discussing these matters ahead of time is a great relief, especially if a person is elderly or in poor health.

Planning some of these details in advance can also help save money. For many people, death goods and services cost more than anything they bought during their lives except homes and cars. Some wise comparison shopping in advance can help ensure that costs will be controlled or kept to a minimum.

Your O.W.D estate planning & elder law lawyer can assist you in creating such a document to protect your rights and wishes.

What happens if I don’t leave written instructions?

If you pass on without leaving written instructions about your preferences, state law will determine who will have the right to decide how your remains are handled. In most states, the right — and the responsibility to pay for the reasonable costs of disposing of remains — rests with the following people: spouse, children, parent(s), next of kin, or public administrator, who is appointed by a court.

Disputes may arise if two or more people (i.e., the deceased person’s children) share responsibility for deciding whether the body of a parent should be buried or cremated. These disputes can be avoided if you do some prior planning and to put your wishes in writing.

Will my estate have to pay taxes after I die?

It depends. The federal government imposes estate tax at your death only if your property is worth more than a certain amount, which depends on the year of death. However, all property left to a spouse is exempt from the tax, as long as the spouse is an U.S. citizen. Estate tax is also not assessed on any property you leave to a tax-exempt charity.

Can I use my will to name somebody to care for my young children in case someday I can’t?

Yes. If both parents of a child die while the child is still a minor, another adult — called a “personal guardian” — must step in. The personal guardian will be responsible for raising your children until they become legal adults. You can use your wills to nominate someone to fill this position.

Can I leave property to my minor children in my will?

Children under 18 can inherit property — but if it’s anything valuable, an adult must manage it for them. It is important to name a custodian, set up a trust for each child, set up a “pot trust” (one trust for all children), and name a property guardian.

Our estate planning lawyers at O.W.D can assist you in the right wording so that your children will be protected under law.