Define estate plan as a set of legal documents that individuals create which helps decide how to distribute their assets and property in the event of their death. It also deals with dealing with incapacity during a person’s lifetime.
An estate plan includes wills, trusts, powers of attorney, living wills, and other documents that are specific to the individual’s needs.
A properly defined estate plan will protect you, your family, and your assets during your lifetime and beyond.
Last Will and Testament
Part of a comprehensive plan is a Last Will and Testament. Don’t confuse this with a “Living Will.” They are different things.
A Last Will and Testament provides direction for who should receive your property after you die. It also names who should be in charge, the executor. Finally a Will names the people you want to raise your minor children if you can’t.
A Will alone requires probate to be validated and activated. Probate means a Judge will oversee the process from start to finish. Probate often takes control away from the family and gives it to a Judge.
Define Estate Plan – Trusts
A Trust, especially a Revocable Living Trust, is a method used to avoid probate, protect assets, protect family, and more. Trusts are a more advanced estate planning technique. When needed, they are great tools. Often they are overused by attorneys.
Powers of Attorney
A general durable power of attorney gives someone else the ability to make your personal, financial, and legal decisions if you can’t.
A healthcare power of attorney names who you want to make healthcare decisions when you can’t.
Other Healthcare Documents
A HIPAA waiver (protected healthcare information release) tells healthcare workers who they can talk to and who they can’t talk to.
A “Living Will” also known as a death with dignity document, tells doctors that after everything they know to do has been done, unplug the machines.
Define Estate Plan – Other Techniques
An estate planning attorney has other techniques to choose from. Some of these are:
- Beneficiary designations
- and more