What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning consists of directing how you want to see your property divided up and distributed to whomever you may choose.
Estate planning also entails choosing and drafting documents that will inform and direct hospitals and other healthcare facilities about your expectations for treatment and care.
Good planning also gives individuals of your choosing the power to make decisions for you in the event that you are not able to make decisions regarding your finances or health care for your self.
Most estate planning and health care planning will consist of some, but not necessarily all of the following:
a last will and testament,
a living will (also known as an advance directive),
a health or medical power of attorney,
a financial power of attorney,
and maybe a transfer on death deed or joint tenancy (with rights of survivorship) deed to real property.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to estate planning
We meet with our clients at our office, or if need be, at their residence. We get to know the client’s unique set of circumstances, and then we recommend, explain, and prepare the documents necessary to carry out the client’s wishes.
Most importantly, good planning gives you and your loved ones a sense of certainty and peace of mind.
Estate Planning and Health Planning Essentials
Wills and Trusts
Do you need a will or trust, both or neither?
If you own real property, you definitely need one or the other, and most likely a Revocable Trust.
A Revocable Living Trust accomplishes what a Last Will and Testament does. It is a legal document that directs how you want your property distributed when you pass away.
However, a Revocable Living Trust also does something else that a Will cannot do. A trust keeps your estate out of probate court after you have passed away, and thereby saves your estate and loved ones from frustrations associated with a very costly and potentially uncertain legal process.
Avoiding probate is simply a better choice. However, if you don’t own much property to speak of, or if the only property you own that has any value is real property, like your home, then maybe a Will is the way to go, accompanied by a Transfer on Death deed to your property, or a Joint Tenancy deed with the person or people you want to inherit your home.
Both of those kinds of deeds will keep your home, or other real property out of probate.
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial Power of Attorney is an essential tool in anyone’s estate planning portfolio. Basically, a financial Power of Attorney allows anyone of your choosing to have access to your bank accounts, and sign documents in your place.
They can be limited in scope, or the power you grant can be as broad as you like. It can be springing — that is to say, the power can kick in when a certain event happens, like incapacity; or it can be durable, meaning it takes effect immediately, and continues to be in effect even after incapacity of you, the grantor.
Medical Power of Attorney
With a Health or Medical Power of Attorney, you can appoint a person to make medical and health related decisions for you in the event that you cannot.
Why is it important to have Financial and Medical Powers of Attorney?
If you do not have a Financial Power of Attorney and a Medical Power of Attorney, and you become incapacitated, then a Guardianship case has to be filed with the court. That can be expensive, time consuming and fraught with tension for those involved.
Both the Medical Power of Attorney and Financial Power of Attorney help keep your family and loved ones out of court, and safe from a potentially nasty legal battle.
Advance Directive for Health Care (Living Will)
An Advance Directive, also known as a Living Will, is one of the most important pieces of the health/medical care planning puzzle. As with the Medical Power of Attorney, you can nominate someone to make medical decisions for you if you cannot. But more than that, it also tells health professionals what kind of treatment you want in the event that you are incapacitated in a terminal, end-of-life situation.
You may want to be kept alive by artificial means, at all costs, and then again, that may be the exact opposite of what you want. The Advance Directive makes that decision yours — not the hospital’s.
Estate Planning & Elder Law Services
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to estate planning. We get to know the client’s unique set of circumstances, and then we recommend, explain, and prepare the documents necessary to carry out the client’s wishes.