Frequently Asked Questions

About Estate Guru

Why Should I Use Estate Guru?

Nothing like Estate Guru currently exists. We have leveraged technology to bring estate planning into the 21st century for your convenience. With Estate Guru you can create documents from the comfort of your own home, share your documents through email or invitations to the platform, keep your documents current in the easiest way possible, and allow your loved ones to settle your estate after you have passed.

What if I Need Help or Get Stuck While Creating my Estate Plan?

Estate Guru is an intelligent system – it monitors and responds in real time to information you provide. We have done extensive research to make sure every question we ask is a question that you can answer. There is a help button with additional information. If you do need help, call the help line, or email us.

What is the Difference Between Estate Guru and Everyone Else? Traditional Lawyers?

Estate planning is a process not an event. You don’t just prepare documents and your done. Life is forever changing and as a result so too must your estate plan. Estate Guru was created with this reality in mind. Here is why Estate Guru is better than everyone else:

  • We are not just a document engine. We focus on the entire estate planning process – creation, funding, modification and settlement.
  • Your estate planning documents are reviewed at least once a year by the attorney associated with your documents.
  • We help you identify and create the documents you need.
  • An attorney is responsible for your file.
  • Guru’s proprietary analytics (an intelligent system) monitors your activities in real time to ensure that you never attempt to do anything that may cause you harm.
  • Your documents are securely stored in Guru so you can access them anytime from anywhere.
  • You can share your documents with whomever you desire with the simple click of a mouse.
  • We proactively manage your plan for you so you do not have too – simply respond to our annual review email and know that your plan is always current and up-to-date.

Guru is simple, convenient, and affordable – the way estate planning should be.

How Can I Access my Documents If I am Away From my House?

If you only have printed documents, welcome to the Stone Age. If you want to have access to them on the road you will be the guy carrying the binder full of documents. All documents created using Estate Guru automatically reside securely on the web and can be retrieved anytime, anywhere from any device connected to the Internet.

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Estate Planning

Will my Estate Have to Pay Taxes After I Die?

Maybe. At the present time, at the Federal level, very few people have enough wealth to trigger an estate tax. There may be taxes owed at the State level. Each state has the right to impose their own death or inheritance tax. In addition, your estate may be liable for income taxes owned by the decedent.

When Should I do my Estate Plan?

Now. Stop procrastinating. It is not expensive. It is not hard to do. You can prepare your plan from the privacy of your own home. Answer the 20 questions and get it done.

What is the Best Way to Transfer Wealth to Your Children When You Die?

Depends how you define “best”. The best usually means that the asset has been transferred with the least amount of cost and hassle (read avoid probate) in the shortest amount of time.

That said, if the children in question are minors you have to take into account their maturity and ability as well as consider what receiving wealth at a young age will do to their motivation and productivity (consider what you would have done with a half million dollars at age 18? Hello red sports car – good-bye college). So most practitioners recommend that wealth be held in trust for minors and sprinkled out over time as they mature and life skills develop. This type of sprinkling distribution can be achieved using either a will or a trust.

What Does Estate Planning Entail?

At its most basic level, estate planning is all about identifying and putting into place the necessary legal documents required to empower someone other than yourself to manage your affairs in the event you are not able to so yourself.

Should Life Insurance be a Part of Your Estate Plan?

Maybe. Is anyone other than you financially dependent upon your current income? If yes, then insurance may be an appropriate part of your estate plan. If no, then purchasing life insurance is probably a waste of money.

Is it Difficult to do Your Own Estate Planning?

No. Regardless of how you create your estate plan (using Estate Guru or an online document provider, or going the traditional route and retain an attorney), there are 20 questions that must be answered to complete your estate plan. You are the only one who knows the answers to the 20 questions. Once you have provided the answers to the 20 questions the rest is completely automated. So try Estate Guru and see how easy it is to create and maintain your estate plan.

Is Estate Planning the Same as a Will?

No. A will is a central part of everyone’s estate plan but a quality estate plan will include other documents such as a financial power of attorney, living will, health care directive, HIPPA authorization, and possibly a revocable living trust. Some individual’s will require even more sophisticated strategies that may include special needs trust, irrevocable life insurance trust, charitable trusts, etc.

Is Estate Planning Only for the Wealthy?

No. It is a misconception that only the wealthy need a quality estate plan. While it is true the more wealth you have the more money you will save when you die by preparing your estate plan, there are many other reasons to make sure your affairs are in order. Naming guardians for minor children, identifying when assets are to be distributed and to whom and upon what conditions, empowering someone to handle your financial affairs or make health care decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so for yourself are all important considerations that have no bearing whatsoever on the amount of money you have.

Is a Living Trust Worth the Time, Effort, and Cost for a Small Estate?

Maybe. There are approximately 20 questions that you must answer to create your estate plan, irrespective of whether your estate plan is centered around a trust or a will. Once you have answered the questions the rest is completely automated. So the same effort is required to create a trust as a will.

The difference is between the two is how you manage your assets. With a trust you have to retitle every asset, on an asset-by-asset basis, to reflect ownership inside the trust. While not difficult, it is a time consuming and occasionally frustrating process. Once your assets are owned by your trust they will avoid probate. How much your survivors will save is based on where you live and how much your assets are worth at the time of death.

Basically the effort you put forth to retitle your assets saves your survivors time and hassle of doing it when you die. So you decide, clean up your own mess or leave it up to someone else to do once you have passed, the choice is yours.

If Estate Documents are Created in One State, Will They be Valid in Another?

Assuming your financial power of attorney, will and living trust documents were valid in the state where you created them, they do not require any modification as you travel or move from state to state. Even though they are still technically valid, it is good practice to redo your health care directives if you are relocating permanently to reflect your new state of residence.

How Often do I Need to Update my Estate Planning Documents?

Births, marriages, deaths, divorce, relocation to another state, retirement – whenever you experience a significant life event it is time to review your estate plan. The acquisition or disposition of real property or significant financial assets is another reason to review your estate plan. At a minimum we suggest that you review your plan once every three years. Estate Guru sends out a questionnaire to you at least annually to make certain that your documents remain current and up-to-date.

How Hard is it to Make Changes to Our Estate Plan?

Making changes to your estate plan is simple. If you have a will the document to make changes to your plan is called a codicil. If your plan is centered around a trust you use an amendment. A codicil is witnessed, while an amendment must be notarized. Both a codicil or an amendment can be made online using Estate Guru.

What is Purpose of Estate Planning?

Proper estate planning ensures that your loved ones are properly provided for upon your death or incapacity. You don’t need an estate plan if:

  • You don’t love anyone
  • You don’t own any assets
  • You want to make sure everyone is frustrated if you die or become incapacitated

If any of these fit your situation, then do nothing. Otherwise, login to identify and create the documents you need.

Who Needs Estate Planning?

Most people think estate planning is for the rich or the elderly. Wrong. Regardless of age, marital status, or financial assets, everyone 18 years of age and older needs to consider how their affairs will be handled in the event that they are unable to do so for themselves. Putting the correct documents in place to handle your affairs when you cannot is what estate planning is all about.

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Living Wills

What is the Difference Between a Health Care Directive and a Living Will?

Health Care Directive is the general term used to describe the set of documents which communicate to medical professionals and family members the type of medical care you desire when you are not able to do so yourself. A complete set of Health Care Directives typically includes documents such as:

  • A Living Will – outlines your wishes about life support and other kinds of life sustaining medical treatment, such as the use of antibiotics, feeding tubes, hydration, etc.
  • A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – empowers someone (depending on your state of residence known as “agent”, “attorney-in-fact”, “proxy”, “surrogate”, or “patient advocate”) to make medical decisions for you if are unable to do so for yourself.
  • HIPPA Release Form – authorizes doctors to disclose information in your medical files record with a 3rd party. Without a valid HIPPA Release Form, your healthcare provider is prohibited from disclosing or even discussing your medical information with anyone who is not directly related to your medical care.

Power of Attorney

What is the Difference Between a General and Durable Power of Attorney?

General power of attorney is the most broad kind of POA you can create. It empowers the individual named as your agent or attorney-in-fact to do anything you would do at any time. A durable power of attorney grants your attorney-in-fact the right to continue making decisions on your behalf even if you become sick or otherwise incapacitated. The two are not mutually exclusive so you can create a general, durable power of attorney.

What is a Power of Attorney (POA) and How Does it Work?

A power of attorney is a legal document that names someone to manage your affairs when you are incapable of doing so for yourself. This person is known as your “agent” or “attorney in fact”. They only have authority to act as your agent while you are alive. Once you die their authority to act on your behalf ends (the person named as your executor or successor trustee takes over upon death).

Most power of attorney documents require that your agent submit proof that you are incapable of managing your affairs before they can take over your affairs. This requirement is usually satisfied by written letter from 2 physicians or if necessary by court order. Once adequate evidence of incapacity is received the individual you named as your agent is ready to act in every way as if they were you.

Is a Financial POA Valid After Death?

No. A Financial Power of Attorney names someone (known as your “agent”, or “attorney-in-fact”), to act on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so for yourself. Once you pass away your POA is null and void and this authority is vested in your executor named in your will or the successor trustee named in your revocable living trust.

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Probate

Who Else Needs to Worry About Probate?

You do not really care about the probate associated with your estate. You’re dead, the distribution of your stuff is someone else’s headache. You plan your estate because you love someone and you want to make sure that handling your affairs upon your death is not a hassle for them.

You should be very concerned about the estate plans of your parents, however. Their plans, or lack thereof, will impact you directly as you will be responsible for affairs when they die.

So complete your estate plan and then make sure your parents are all set to go.

What is a Letter of Testamentary (also known as a Grant of Probate)?

A “Letter of Testamentary” is a legal document obtained from the probate court that gives your executor the legal authority to manage your estate, take possession of property, pay taxes owed, deal with creditors, etc.

What is Probate Real Estate?

Probate real estate is real property subject to the probate process. Title dictates whether or not a piece of real estate is subject to probate. If title on the property was:

  • sole and separate property of the decedent – it is very likely that property will be subject to probate
  • tenants in common – it is very likely that the decedent’s share of the property will be subject to probate
  • joint-tenants with rights of survivorship – usually avoids probate
  • community property – usually avoids probate
  • trustee of living trust – usually avoids probate

What is Probate Property?

Any property subject to the authority of the probate court is known as “probate property”.

What is a Probate Lawyer?

A lawyer who specializes in probate law is known as a probate lawyer. They often assist individuals in preparing a last will and testament or other estate planning documents.

What is Probate Law?

Every state has statutes that govern how they will administer the affairs of their citizen’s upon death. Taken collectively, these statutes are referred to “probate law”.

What is Probate Estate?

Upon your death, all the assets you own which are subject to probate (i.e., transferred to beneficiaries under the terms of a will and subject to the authority of probate court) are referred to as your “probate estate”.

What is Probate Court?

Every day people die. More importantly, you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul. Upon death people distribute their stuff through a will. To ensure that your wishes, as outlined in your will, are carried out your will is subject to a legal proceeding known as probate. The court that oversees this process is known as the probate court.

What is Probate?

Probate is the official administration of your affairs upon death. The process varies state by state. It is a legal proceeding whereby the court ensures your wishes outlined in your last will and testament are accomplished, assets are appropriately distributed, and taxes and creditors are paid. The process varies state by state, but generally requires that you either fill out forms or appear in court to:

  • prove that the decedent’s will is valid (unless someone is contesting the will, this usually requires nothing more than presenting death certificate and copy of the will)
  • obtain legal authority to act on behalf of the decedent
  • inventory and value all decedent’s property
  • pay all decedent’s debts and taxes
  • distribute any remaining property according to the terms of the decedent’s last will and testament
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Trusts

What is the Best Way to Transfer Wealth to Your Children When You Die?

Depends how you define “best”. The best usually means that the asset has been transferred with the least amount of cost and hassle (read avoid probate) in the shortest amount of time.

That said, if the children in question are minors you have to take into account their maturity and ability as well as consider what receiving wealth at a young age will do to their motivation and productivity (consider what you would have done with a half million dollars at age 18? Hello red sports car – good-bye college). So most practitioners recommend that wealth be held in trust for minors and sprinkled out over time as they mature and life skills develop. This type of sprinkling distribution can be achieved using either a will or a trust.

What Happens to my Stock if I Die Without a Will or Trust?

Stock certificates are usually held in a brokerage account. When you established your brokerage account you identified the owner (how title is held), and in some cases how the stock is to handle upon your death (known as a beneficiary or pay on death designee). Irrespective of whether or not you have a will or a trust how title and the beneficiary designation will determine what happens to the stocks in your brokerage account.

What Happens to my Assets if I Do Not Have a Will or Trust?

Every asset has a title. Title determines what happens to an asset when you die. If you die without a will or a trust, any given asset, may or may not, have to go through probate. If the asset is deemed part of the probate estate, and you do not have a will or trust, then your affairs are governed by a process known as “intestate distribution”. Each state has statutes in place to handle people who, for whatever reason, die without providing instructions (i.e., will or trust) on what to do with their stuff.

What Happens to Assets I Do Not List in my Will or Trust?

Irrespective of whether or not an asset is specifically mentioned in your will or trust, the way title is held determines what happens to an asset upon your death. Title always takes precedence.

Once you have created the right documents (either a will or trust depending on your circumstances) you have to make sure you review how each asset is titled and make sure that title does not conflict with the documents you have created. Provide information about title to Estate Guru and we do the check to identify those assets that will need additional attention for your plan to work as you intend.

What Factors Should I Consider When Choose an Executor for my Will (or Successor Trustee for my Trust)?

Your executor or successor trustee does not have to be a legal or financial expert. However, They must be an adult and a legal resident of the United States.

Additionally, they must be diligent and willing to follow your instructions as outlined in your will or trust. They have a fiduciary duty to act in good faith on behalf of everyone concerned so they need to be honest and impartial. They should have good organizational and communication skills and be able to keep track of details.

What is the Difference Between a Successor Trustee and an Executor?

An Executor and a Trustee essentially do the same thing – they administer your affairs upon your death. Your Executor is identified in your will. Your Trustee is identified in your Trust.

What are Things I Should Consider When Deciding on a Will or a Trust?

All things being equal, cost has been a (if not the) primary consideration, as the price to create a will traditionally has been significantly less than the cost to produce a living trust. Cost aside, most estate planners agree that you should consider using a living trust once you own real property. Depending on the total value and nature of your assets, if you do not own real property a will may be sufficient.

The good news is you do not have to decide. Simply answer the questions and Guru will make the decision for you.

What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

To learn about this topic please check out our blog post,

What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

Is a Living Trust Worth the Time, Effort, and Cost for a Small Estate?

Maybe. There are approximately 20 questions that you must answer to create your estate plan, irrespective of whether your estate plan is centered around a trust or a will. Once you have answered the questions the rest is completely automated. So the same effort is required to create a trust as a will.

The difference is between the two is how you manage your assets. With a trust you have to retitle every asset, on an asset-by-asset basis, to reflect ownership inside the trust. While not difficult, it is a time consuming and occasionally frustrating process. Once your assets are owned by your trust they will avoid probate. How much your survivors will save is based on where you live and how much your assets are worth at the time of death.

Basically the effort you put forth to retitle your assets saves your survivors time and hassle of doing it when you die. So you decide, clean up your own mess or leave it up to someone else to do once you have passed, the choice is yours.

If I Have a Living Trust do I Still Need a Will?

Yes. The will is called a pour-over will as your living trust will be the sole beneficiary (details about asset distribution are found in the trust not the will). In addition, guardians of your minor children are named in your will.

Can You Have Stipulations in a Trust?

Yes. A trust is like any other contract. Whatever you want to do (that is legal) can be delineated out in a the trust.

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Wills

What Should I Know About Writing a Will?

Everyone who has minor children needs a will, if for no other reason to identify who you desire to be the guardian of your children in the event of your untimely demise.

There are 20 questions you have to answer. You know the answer to the 20 questions so there is no need to prepare in advance. The only question that may require some forethought is identifying who should be the guardian of your children. If for some reason you cannot figure out who to name as guardian – pick one – better to make a choice that can be amended later.

In most cases you can draft your last will and testament yourself (Estate Guru monitors your information in real time and will identify if your circumstances require a live review and an attorney will call you if that is the case).

What Happens to my Stock if I Die Without a Will or Trust?

Stock certificates are usually held in a brokerage account. When you established your brokerage account you identified the owner (how title is held), and in some cases how the stock is to handle upon your death (known as a beneficiary or pay on death designee). Irrespective of whether or not you have a will or a trust how title and the beneficiary designation will determine what happens to the stocks in your brokerage account.

What Happens to my Assets if I Do Not Have a Will or Trust?

Every asset has a title. Title determines what happens to an asset when you die. If you die without a will or a trust, any given asset, may or may not, have to go through probate. If the asset is deemed part of the probate estate, and you do not have a will or trust, then your affairs are governed by a process known as “intestate distribution”. Each state has statutes in place to handle people who, for whatever reason, die without providing instructions (i.e., will or trust) on what to do with their stuff.

What Happens to Assets I Do Not List in my Will or Trust?

Irrespective of whether or not an asset is specifically mentioned in your will or trust, the way title is held determines what happens to an asset upon your death. Title always takes precedence.

Once you have created the right documents (either a will or trust depending on your circumstances) you have to make sure you review how each asset is titled and make sure that title does not conflict with the documents you have created. Provide information about title to Estate Guru and we do the check to identify those assets that will need additional attention for your plan to work as you intend.

What Factors Should I Consider When Choose an Executor for my Will (or Successor Trustee for my Trust)?

Your executor or successor trustee does not have to be a legal or financial expert. However, They must be an adult and a legal resident of the United States.

Additionally, they must be diligent and willing to follow your instructions as outlined in your will or trust. They have a fiduciary duty to act in good faith on behalf of everyone concerned so they need to be honest and impartial. They should have good organizational and communication skills and be able to keep track of details.

What is the Difference Between a Successor Trustee and an Executor?

An Executor and a Trustee essentially do the same thing – they administer your affairs upon your death. Your Executor is identified in your will. Your Trustee is identified in your Trust.

What are Things I Should Consider When Deciding on a Will or a Trust?

All things being equal, cost has been a (if not the) primary consideration, as the price to create a will traditionally has been significantly less than the cost to produce a living trust. Cost aside, most estate planners agree that you should consider using a living trust once you own real property. Depending on the total value and nature of your assets, if you do not own real property a will may be sufficient.

The good news is you do not have to decide. Simply answer the questions and Guru will make the decision for you.

What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

To learn about this topic please check out our blog post,

What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

Should 20-year Olds Prepare a Will?

Maybe. If you have substantial assets or minor children then definitely yes. If you are broke, single and still irresponsible then no.

However, everyone 18 years of age and older should have a valid power of attorney for finance and a current health care directive identifying who is to manage your financial affairs and make health care decisions on your behalf if you are not able to do so for yourself. In addition, every adult, should have a current HIPPA Release Form empowering a trusted third-party to access your medical records.

Is it Possible to Get a Will Written Without a Lawyer?

Yes. You have the right to prepare your documents any way you want. Old school DIY forms, books, and software on CD’s has evolved into online document engines like LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and US Legal Forms. Their terms of use agreements require that you acknowledge they are not engaged in the practice of law, that you are not engaging an attorney, and if you desire legal advice hire a lawyer.

While Estate Guru is an intelligent system, an attorney is assigned to and responsible for your work. Our system asks you the same questions that you would be asked if you went to an attorney to prepare your documents. We monitor your responses, in real time, and guide you through the entire interview process. If at any time, your responses indicate that your situation is too complex to handle using Guru’s automated system your file is escalated to a “live review” and the attorney responsible for Guru activities in your state will call you. In other words we know the limitations of our services and we will stop you if you need the personal assistance of an attorney.

Is Estate Planning the Same as a Will?

No. A will is a central part of everyone’s estate plan but a quality estate plan will include other documents such as a financial power of attorney, living will, health care directive, HIPPA authorization, and possibly a revocable living trust. Some individual’s will require even more sophisticated strategies that may include special needs trust, irrevocable life insurance trust, charitable trusts, etc.

If I Have a Living Trust do I Still Need a Will?

Yes. The will is called a pour-over will as your living trust will be the sole beneficiary (details about asset distribution are found in the trust not the will). In addition, guardians of your minor children are named in your will.

What is a Pour Over Will?

A pour-over will is the name of a will that is used in conjunction with a revocable living trust. A pour-over will has two primary purposes; 1) to name the guardian of any minor children and, 2) to ensure that any assets not titled in the name of the living trust at time of death are distributed to the living trust by the process of probate.

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