Wills, Trusts and Estates is an introduction to several related areas: intestate succession, gifts, trusts, future interests and probate law. The course is to prepare students for the practice of law in a field of great importance to lawyers. Wills, Trusts and Estates is a study of the execution and revocation of documents, the use of substitutes, the function of the trust in the transmission of wealth during life and at death, and the rules governing the administration of estates and trusts in probate court. Special attention is given to lawyering skills, including case analysis, statutory interpretation, and drafting of instruments that reflect your client's estate plan.
Students will look at families and discuss how to advise clients in different relationships and at different stages of their lives. In addition, students will look at the impact of life events--such as marriage, divorce, adoption, civil union, and incapacity--on the client's ownership, control, and transfer of property, and on the client's estate planning needs
Probate law is one area of the law that is very state specific so be careful using general principals depending on your state and on Federal law that governs who gets the retirement benefits. ERISA may control the beneficiary of a Federal retirement plan when the participant dies.
If you intend to practice probate law in your state, then you may want to contact your state bar association to see what material that they have available to assist you. Your local probate court may also have materials available.
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Probate Judges' Benchbook New Mexico probate procedures. Good overview of the law of estates and probate procedures.
Five Reasons Why I Don't Have a Will A humorous take on a serious issue.
One of the most common arguments between family members is who has the right to make the decedent's funeral arrangements. If your client wants his executor (personal representative) to be responsible, then consider adding the following language into their will.
My executor shall have the power to employ and make the necessary arrangements for the proper disposition of my final remains in accordance with any written statement by me or, if none, at my Executor’s sole discretion except that it is my desire that I be cremated.
A dispute often erupts among the heirs over who receives the decedent's cemetery rights. This is normally covered in the decedent's contract with the cemetery which takes precedence over the last will and testament unless there are specific provisions in the will. If you are drafting a will for a client, you may want to discuss whether they own any cemetery plots and if so who is to receive title to them.
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