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Don't have a will? You're hardly alone.

Actor Anne Heche died in August, 2022, after a car accident. She did not have a will or other estate planning documents in place, evidently, so her 20 year old son had to go to probate court to gain control over her estate.

Every state has laws which dictate what happens with a person's assets when they die, including how their assets are divided among their relatives in the absence of a Will. If you want to make sure that your wishes are carried out, particularly if your wishes are different from how the law would distribute your assets, you should execute a Will and/or a Trust. A Will lets you designate the individual you want to be in charge of administering your estate. A Will also allows you to nominate a guardian to care for your child(ren) in your place. A Will becomes part of a public court record, and Probate, the court process for addressing a deceased person's estate, can take some time, although a valid, uncontested Will helps to simplify the process.

If you want your final wishes to remain private and/or are concerned that your loved ones have quick access to your assets if something happens to you, you might consider a Trust. The Trust Agreement contains instructions for how the trustee can and should use your assets. The Trust Agreement does not become part of the public court records, and only certain people are entitled to read its terms. A Trust can continue to exist beyond your death, so your assets can be administered according to your wishes into the future.

I am always surprised when a celebrity, with their resources and wealth, doesn't have a Trust in place so that the size and beneficiaries of their estate does not become public record. When a celebrity doesn't even have a Will, it reminds me that none of us like to think about our eventual death, but that a little planning now can make it easier for our loved ones later on.

Frens Elder Law & Estate Planning has placed the information on this website as a service to the general public. Use of this website does not in any manner constitute a client-attorney relationship between Frens Elder Law & Estate Planning and the user. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for the particularized advice of your own counsel. Anyone seeking specific legal advice or assistance should retain an attorney. This website could include inaccuracies or typographical errors. The materials on this website do not constitute legal advice, do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Frens Elder Law & Estate Planning or of Attorney Stacia Frens, and are not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date. The articles and information on this website are provided as is without warranty of any kind, either express or implied.


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