ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS
Q: What is estate planning?
A: Estate planning is a process that accomplishes the following objectives:
- Controlling property while you are alive and well
- Taking care of yourself and your loved ones in the event of a disability
- Giving what you have to whom you want, when you want, and how you want upon your death.
Without a good estate plan, you and your family may lose control over your property,
suffer through unnecessary court proceedings, and pay excessive taxes. The lack of an estate plan
may also deprive your family of the opportunity to receive from you a lasting legacy
designed to bring your family closer together.
Q: What happens if you do not plan your estate?
A: If you do not plan your estate correctly, your assets may pass to beneficiaries
in accordance with state law, not in accordance with your wishes. The court system will
be in charge of choosing your executor and the guardians for your minor children. The
court will have jurisdiction over the assets inherited by minor children until they reach
the age of 19, at which time each the child will receive full control over the assets,
without guidance or advice from others.
Q: What are some common estate planning documents?
A: Common estate planning documents include the following:
- Will - A will is a written document that tells the court how to divide your
property at the time of death. It also tells the court who should be the guardian
for your minor children and your executor.
- Trust - A trust is a written legal document that provides instructions on how
the property titled in trust's name is to be managed and distributed. Trusts have
the advantages of increased privacy, increased asset protection for surviving spouses
and children, planning in the event of a disability, legitimate tax avoidance and
- Durable Power of Attorney - A durable power of attorney is a written document
wherein you ("principal") appoint someone else ("agent") to have the authority to
act on your behalf. The agent will have the authority to act even in the event you
become disabled. The authority granted to the agent can include all financial
transactions, managing investments and making gifts.
- Health Care Power of Attorney - A health care power of attorney is a written
document wherein you ("principal") appoint someone else ("agent") to have the authority
to make health care decisions on your behalf when the you cannot make them yourself.
Your agent should have a clear understanding of your views with regard to continuing
health care decisions under certain circumstances.
- Living Will - A living will is a document that instructs your physicians regarding
specific types of medical treatment that you do and do not want to receive. They are
mainly used by those who desire to authorize the withdrawal of life sustaining treatment
if the treatment is simply prolonging life without any hope of a meaningful recovery.
- HIPAA Authorization - The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
of 1996 (HIPAA) ensures the privacy of your health care information. These strict
privacy rules may restrict your loved ones from obtaining access to this information
when necessary. A HIPAA Authorization will allow the individuals you designate to
obtain this information.