A comprehensive estate plan can be prepared by one of our attorneys after comprehensive counseling to take into account your unique situation and needs.
There are four documents generally used in estate planning: the Advanced Medical Directive, the Durable Power of Attorney, the Last Will & Testament (Will), and the Revocable Living Trust (Trust).
The Advanced Medical Directive and the Durable Power of Attorney are incapacity planning documents that are used to protect you during your lifetime in the event you are unable to act or express your own wishes. The Advanced Medical Directive is a document that allows you to outline your wishes regarding your medical care, end of life decisions, and appoint a person, known as a Healthcare Agent, to act and make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.
The Durable Power of Attorney is a separate document but acts in a similar fashion. The Durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a person, known as the attorney-in-fact, to act on your behalf for financial and legal matters. Simply put, if you are incapacitated, laying in a hospital and needing surgery, the Advanced Medical Directive allows the person you choose to authorize the surgery, and the Durable Power of Attorney allows the person you choose to pay the hospital's bill for your surgery.
Wills and Trusts are documents that plan for the event of your death. The Will is a basic document that operates at the time of your death, transferring your assets to the people you chose after your death. A Will can be changed or terminated at any time before your death, and only becomes effective after being submitted to the court for probate. A Will appoints a person known as an Executor, who is a person you chose to carry out your wishes. If you have minor children, you can may also name one or more people to act as Guardian to care for them.
A Trust is an advanced estate planning mechanism that allows you to avoid the hassle and cost of the judicial probate process. A Trust is an agreement, similar to a contract, between you as “Grantor” and you as “Trustee.” The Trust is “revocable,” meaning you continue to retain use and control over your property, and the Trust can be changed or terminated at any time. Unlike a Will, a Trust becomes effective immediately upon your death. A Trust is also more private and efficient than a Will. Unlike a Will, which must be probated through a public judicial process and becomes a public record after your death, a Trust is a private document that is normally only seen by you and your loved ones. Because Trusts can avoid the slow and expensive probate process, they are also more efficient, transferring property to your loved ones immediately at your death, or in any time-frame you desire.