Estate Plans | Wills and Trusts | Powers of Attorney | Advance Directives | Living Wills
When you’ve worked hard to build your net worth, to create the resources to protect your loved ones in the event of your death, you want to take the necessary steps to protect your estate and to ensure that, if the situation arises, the right decisions will be made on your behalf and your assets will be passed on in accordance with your wishes. Those are the functions of a comprehensive estate plan.
A well-conceived and clearly drafted estate plan is one of the greatest gifts you can leave your loved ones, minimizing uncertainty, as well as potential strife, as your family experiences its grief. Your estate planning should include the following documents:
A will or trust – These legal documents identify the actual distribution of your assets. A will, while executed during your lifetime, will only go into effect after your death. A trust may be created during your lifetime (an inter vivos trust) or upon your death (a testamentary trust, typically created by the terms of a will).
Any property that passes according to a will must generally go through the probate process, whereas property that has been placed in a trust avoids probate. That’s because the probate process is designed to ensure the orderly distribution of your assets, but you no longer have legal ownership of assets placed in a trust (the trust, a separate legal entity, owns the property). You can, however, retain use of property placed in trust. The trust remains in effect until terminated, as set forth in the trust documents.
A will often includes provisions addressing other issues, such as the appointment of an executor or administrator for your estate, as well as the identification of guardians for minor children or incapacitated adults, should the need arise.
- A durable power of attorney – This document identifies those individuals who have the legal authority to act on your behalf. A durable power of attorney is one that remains in effect, even if you become incapacitated (as opposed to a general power of attorney, which is typically granted immediately, but ends if you become incapacitated). It’s fairly common to set up a power of attorney to go into effect only upon disability or incapacity, and to establish certain requirements before the POA goes into effect (such as the verification of incapacity by a licensed medical professional).
- An advance directive – Also referred to as a medical power of attorney, this document identifies who has the right to make medical decisions on your behalf, if you are unable or unwilling to do so. It may include language about whether or not you want to be resuscitated or put on life support, but often only names your designated decision-maker.
- A living will – A living will typically includes specific instructions about the care you will receive, if you are incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions. That generally includes “end-of-life” decisions, such as “do not resuscitate” orders and admonitions against the use of artificial life support.
- A declaration of guardian – If your will does not name a guardian for your minor children or for any incapacitated adults in your care, you will want to prepare and execute a declaration of guardian to identify who will take that responsibility. You can also use a declaration of guardian to identify a person to act as your guardian, should you need one.
Contact the Proven Estate Planning Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning lawyer, contact us by email or call our offices at 844-402-2992. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.