Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a trust or a will?

Wills and trusts have some overlapping functions, so it is not always obvious which estate planning instrument is right for you. For instance, both can be used to officially declare how your assets should be disbursed after your death.

In the most basic terms, wills are much simpler than trusts, so they are appropriate for small and simpler estates. Trusts are much more versatile and can be drafted to accommodate for complex financial arrangements.

Another difference is that wills are an official record of one's wishes, but a will is not a place where funds can actually be stored. A trust, in contrast, is a bit more like an "account" — it is a financial instrument where actual money can be held, and it also gives you the power to specify how and when those funds should become available to heirs.

In summary: Wills are more common for smaller estates, and trusts are more common for larger estates. Many people choose to create both a will and a trust, or even multiple trusts.

I'm young, do I need a will?

It is never too early to think about estate planning. Even if you are young and healthy, it is financially prudent to draft a will so that you can rest assured that your wishes have been officially recorded even in the event of an unexpected accident that results in your incapacitation or death. We hope that you live a long and healthy life, but your loved ones will be grateful to find a thorough estate plan in place after an emergency.

Younger people also tend to think, humbly, that they haven't saved up enough money or other assets to bother with an estate plan. If you don't have a lot in savings, you might not even think of yourself as owning an "estate." Nevertheless, there is more to estate planning than passing on assets. Every adult stands to benefit from naming a trust person to wield power of attorney, and drafting a health care directive that loved ones and medical professionals can refer to in the event of an accident.

Do I really need a power of attorney, a health care directive and a will? What are all of these things?

A will is a legal document in which you state your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and the care of your minor children.

Power of attorney assigns decision-making powers to a person or institution to act on your behalf when you are unavailable, incapacitated or deceased. These powers can include making decisions about financial transactions and settling claims on your estate.

A health care directive is a legal document used to officially state your wishes regarding medical treatment in the event that you are not able to communicate or make decisions due to illness or incapacity.

Each of these documents serves a separate function, and it is in the interest of every adult to draft all three with a lawyer's guidance, regardless of age, health or personal wealth.

Get Answers To All Your Estate Planning Questions

You can get answers to all of your questions at the Law Office of Curtis W. Patteson, LLC. To schedule a consultation, call 888-785-7545 (toll free) or 907-306-9166, or email me. My office is located in Anchorage, Alaska.