What is The Difference Between Estate Planning & a Will?

by | Jan 25, 2023 | estate planning

When you are diving into the estate planning process, you may be confronted with a lot of unfamiliar terminology. This can make estate planning feel like a headache, rather than a helpful tool to allow you to properly plan for your future. One of the most important estate planning documents that you will encounter is your will. To learn more about the difference between estate planning and a will, continue reading below for more information. 


What is Estate Planning? 

Estate planning is an entire process related to preparing your state for the event of your passing. This process includes detailing how you would like your estate to be managed and distributed either after you pass away or are otherwise incapacitated. There are many different parts of the estate planning process. 


What Does Estate Planning Entail?

There may be many different documents that make up your estate plan. Each one is important in their own way. The biggest benefit to having an estate plan in order is that you will be prepared for the future, as well as prepare your loved ones. A properly prepared estate plan may include a will, a living will, and a trust. 


Living Will vs Last Will & Testament

Often, when someone refers to a will, they are referring to a last will and testament. However, living will and last will often get confused. What they both entail are quite different. A living will provides detailed instructions for when an individual is still alive, but might be otherwise incapacitated. The living will will include their requests for when they are still living, which might include medical care and what to do with their finances. A last will and testament will detail a deceased person’s final wishes, including assets and beneficiaries. 


What Does a Will Do?

A will helps to distribute property and assets that you own at the time of your death. It is also what is known as a last will and testament. Wills can vary and some may be very complex, while others are simple. Besides distribution, a will could also designate a guardian for children or dependents that you are responsible for at the time of your death. A will could also designate an executor of your estate. 


What Doesn’t a Will Do?

A will does not dictate the transfer of certain types of assets, which are referred to as non-probate property. For example, this would include property that is owned with the rights of survivorship. This would also include an insurance policy that has a named beneficiary. A will cannot continue to hold assets for the lifetime benefit or benefit over a term of years of a beneficiary. 


What if I Die Without a Will?

Dying without a will is also what is known as intestate. If you die without a will, your property and assets will have to go through the court system, which is the process that is known as probate. Probate is known for being a lengthy and often costly process. Family members and those that feel entitled to the deceased property, such as close friends, could all be involved in this process. This could cause strain between family members and emotional turmoil. Without a will, you will not have control over where your property and assets go. Legally, you will not be able to enact your final wishes after your passing. 


Who Will Handle My Estate?

As part of your will, you may have named someone as your executor. This will be the person that will handle your estate. While most people name their spouse or their child to be their executor, you could name any person you would like. If you do not name an executor before you pass away, a judge will appoint someone. 


When you choose someone to handle your estate, there are a few things that you will want to keep in mind. Ensure that this is an individual that you can trust will act with your best interests in mind and according to your final wishes. You will want to make sure that you choose someone that not only will accept the role, but will also do an adequate job at it. 


I’m Young. Do I Need an Estate Plan?

Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is not just for the elderly. Virtually everyone can benefit from the estate planning process, as it is centered around your own wishes for the future and the future of your assets. An estate planning attorney can help to assess your individual needs and help you determine what documents you might want to consider, regardless of your age. Planning for the future is always optimal, as tomorrow is, unfortunately, never promised. However, creating a plan can help to ensure that your final wishes are met. 


How Do I Create an Estate Plan? 

Creating an estate plan is no easy feat. There are many moving parts that make up a completed estate plan and you will need to make sure that you are acting in accordance with local laws. Furthermore, you may not be aware of estate planning options that are available to you that may help to make things run smoother for not only you, but also your family. A dedicated estate planning attorney can help you identify these areas and get you started on the right path for your estate planning journey. 


Schedule a Consultation with a Professional Estate Planning Attorney

There are many aspects that make up the estate planning process. Drawing up a will is only one of them. While creating all of your necessary estate planning documents can feel like a daunting process, you don’t have to do it alone. At Galanti & Copenhaver, Inc., our team knows the ins and outs of estate planning. We are dedicated to assessing your individual needs and providing you with the necessary information for you to make informed decisions regarding your estate planning requests. The estate planning process doesn’t have to be a headache with our team at your side. Schedule an initial consultation today to speak with a member of our team!