Q: What is Estate Planning?
A: Estate Planning is a process where an individual, or a couple, plan for their future. This process involves the selection of appropriate documents to carry out the individual's or couple's wishes regarding their future care and the distribution of assets to other people or institutions. An estate plan consists of several key documents, including wills, trusts, business powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney and patient advocate designations, and deeds.
Q: What is a Will?
A will is a legal instrument that becomes operative upon the death of the person who created the will, called the Testator. A will is a vehicle to distribute a person's probate assets upon death. In the will, a person will specify how they want their probate assets to be distributed and to whom. In addition, a person with minor children will want to nominate a guardian to provide care and custody of that person's minor children in the event of that person's death. This can only be achieved through the will.
Q: Do I need a Trust?
A: This question depends on the person's individual circumstances. Trusts are effective tools to avoid probate, limit estate taxes, and provide for beneficiaries who either cannot or perhaps should not manage their own funds for whatever reason. A trust is a vehicle in which legal and equitable title of an asset are split. In essence, a trustee, the person you nominate to hold legal title to the asset, will manage that asset for the beneficiary's benefit, not the trustee's.
Q: Why do I need a Health Care Power of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designation?
A: These instruments are extremely helpful because you will have nominated a person to make health and mental health care decisions for you when you are incapacitated. It is important that this person know your wishes regarding end-of-life health care decisions. This person also can consent to medical treatment, tests, and the administration of medications. A Patient Advocate can also consent to remove life-sustaining treatment if those are your wishes. Our firm also includes a HIPAA authorization with your health care power of attorney, so that your medical service providers may disclose medical and treatment information to the Patient Advocate.
Q: Should I have a Business Power of Attorney?
A: A business power of attorney is a very versatile tool and can be used in many different settings. The business power of attorney gives your designated agent the power to do those things which you yourself would be able to do if you were there in person. Typical uses for these instruments would include a general power which is useful to make sure your financial and personal matters are attended to in the event you are temporarily incapacitated or incompetent to perform them yourself, as well as, the more limited powers which allow your agent to act for you with regards to a certain transaction or series of transactions, like entering into a contract.