General Life and Estate Planning
In addition to distributing your possessions the way you wish, there are other documents which can help you put your health care wishes into writing so there is no mistake about what you want in the event that you are no longer able to voice your own wishes. Below is a description about the various planning documents we provide to help your get your affairs in order.
A Revocable Living Trust distributes property much the same way a Will does, but it accomplishes the distribution without probate court supervision or interference. Instead, a less expensive, less time-consuming, private process is used. The only technical difference is that the title to property is in the name of the Living Trust, and you, or you and your spouse, are the trustees. Because the property is not technically in your name when you pass on, it does not have to go through probate. Many Living Trusts also incorporate credit shelter provisions to maximize tax savings for your heirs.
Privacy is another benefit often cited by Revocable Living Trust users. When a person passes on, his or her Will becomes a public document and easily accessible. Anyone may go into the probate court and see what your estate was worth, which heirs received an inheritance and where they live. A Revocable Living Trust may never be seen by anyone other than the trustee(s). According to statistics, Wills are also far more likely to be successfully challenged than Living Trusts.
Our firm strongly believes that in cases when people have a primary goals of avoiding inheritance problems for their heirs, a Revocable Living Trust is the best way to transfer a person’s assets to their heirs, even if distributing to a modest estate. To more fully understand the advantages a living trust provides, please read on.
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A Will is the most common document used for giving away possessions after death. This writing instructs a probate court on distributing your assets after all of your bills are paid. A properly drafted Will details what items and/or the percentage of the estate the heirs are to receive, and how taxes are handled. It can also include: legally-binding instructions on your desired type of funeral service and burial; a list of the people you want to administer your estate; names of those you want to take custody of minor children; and outline any age restrictions on the people receiving bequests.
In addition to handling the distribution of your property, a Will can also save money on estate taxes, keep money in trust for young beneficiaries, and provide guardianship nominations.
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A Living Will directs a doctor to use or not to use extreme life-saving measures, such as life-support, if you are in an irrecoverable coma or in a “persistent vegetative state.” In a standard Living Will, doctors are ordered either to withhold or administer life support and artificial nutrition. Because the Living Will was drafted, signed and notarized while the patient was conscious and of sound mind, doctors must follow the directives of a Living Will document. This not only allows you to make these important decisions ahead of time, but it also removes the burden of these difficult decisions from loved ones.
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A Health Care Power of Attorney empowers someone else to make health decisions about treatment if you are incapacitated. This document covers instances where you are unconscious and a decision is needed regarding surgery or other treatment. Health Care Power of Attorney documents compliment Living Wills in making sure your health care decisions are made by specific people you choose, so doctors have specific people to turn to for a decision. However, that final decision of withholding or giving life support is made by you in advance through a Living Will.
Far too many times a doctor is stuck waiting for the closest living family members to agree on a decision. The patient may also not want a particular person to be making such decisions, but never took the time to put it in writing. A wife may consider her husband too emotional to make such decisions, so she would prefer her brother make these decisions. Or a husband may trust his wife’s judgment, but would want a friend to make health care decisions if the wife is unavailable and having the decision fall to his mother. A Health Care Power of Attorney can prevent these kinds of issues before they come up.
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A Durable Power of Attorney empowers someone else to handle your financial and legal affairs while you are competent, after you become incompetent, or both. In many instances, these documents are used by married couples as a matter of convenience so that one spouse can close on a new home, change banking information, or other matters that require the approval of both. In other cases, it is essential for an elderly parent to give this power to a child to handle their affairs if they are losing competency or for non-married couples to handle routine affairs for the household.
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Parents of special needs children frequently go through life tackling difficult problems, handling each task “one day at a time.” However well-meaning the theory of taking things “one day at a time” is, it means most people focus solely on the present and they fail to plan for the future. Unfortunately, many parents of special needs children handle things one day at a time and fail to take necessary steps to provide for their children after they are gone.
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