What is a Personal Representative? A Personal Representative is the person who will carry out the directions written in the Will. The Personal Representative has a wide array of duties, from overseeing the funeral to filing the income tax return for the last year of life. A Personal Representative is called an executor in some states.

What is a Testator? A Testator is the person making the Will.

Does a Will have to be witnessed? In Montana, two people not mentioned in the Will have to witness the Testator signing his or her Will.

What is a holographic Will? A holographic Will is the exception to the requirement of having two witnesses to the signing of a Will. For a holographic Will, the Testator must write out his or her Will by hand and sign it. The Testator’s signature, without witnesses, is enough to make the handwritten Will legal.

What is an attorney-in-fact? An attorney-in-fact is someone who can act for another and is also called an agent.

What is a Will? A Will is a writing setting out what one wants to happen with one’s property after death.

What is a Trust? A Trust is a legal entity that can own property separate and apart from the person who makes the Trust.

What is Probate? Probate is the process whereby a court, either formally or informally, oversees the transfer of property to the people and charities named in a will. Informal probate has little court supervision and formal probate has extensive court supervision of the distribution of property.

Why have a Durable Power of Attorney? If there comes a time when you are injured or ill or otherwise cannot manage your finances, it is very helpful to have appointed someone to look after your financial affairs. The legal document by which you appoint someone is called a Durable Power of Attorney. Without it, someone would have to go to the court and get permission to pay bills from your bank account, to handle insurance questions for you, and all the other sundry items that make up a person’s financial affairs.

Why have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care? If you are unable to make and communicate your wishes for medical treatment, the court will look to your closest family member to make those decisions for you, usually a spouse or parent. If neither of those is available, the court, without your say so, may appoint a guardian to make those decisions for you. With a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you appoint who you want to make health decisions for you when you can’t.

Why Have a Trust? When a person dies, with or without a will, the court oversees the transfer of property to beneficiaries, a process called probate. When a person with a trust dies, the property is distributed according to the instructions in the trust document, without having to go through probate.

Why Have a Trust for your children? In a trust for your children, you appoint who will manages the money and property you leave to your young children, and equally important, you get to say how that money is to be managed and spent. A trust is a way for you to provide guidance and protection for the raising of your children.

Why Have Business Succession Planning? If you own all or part of a business, good estate planning includes determining what happens to the business. Who will run the business? Who would sell the business? What is the source of money to pay immediate bills if the business goes through a temporary slow-down during the period of adjusting to your absence? With planning, questions such as these can be discussed and documents put into place to help protect your business interests and your family.