"Estate planning" is a process to consider alternatives for, to think through, and to
set up legally effective arrangements that would meet your specific wishes if "some-thing happens" to you or those you care
Good estate planning is more than "just a simple Will". Estate planning also typically
minimizes potential taxes and fees, and sets up contingency planning to make sure your
wishes regarding health care treatment are followed.
On the financial side, a good estate plan coordinates what would happen with your home,
your investments, your business, your life insurance, your employee benefits (such as a pension plan), and other property
in the event you became disabled or if you die.
On the personal side, a good estate plan includes directions to carry out your wishes
regarding health care matters, so that if you ever are unable to give the directions yourself, someone you select would do
that for you and know when you would want them to authorize "heroic measures" and when you would prefer they "pull the plug".
What Is An Estate?
The term "estate" consists of all the property a person owns or controls, whether in
his or her sole name, held in a partner-ship, in a joint ownership arrangement, or through a trust, and all other monies that
would be generated on the person's death, such as through life insurance. It includes:
Who Should Have An Estate Plan?
You should have an estate plan if:
- you are the parent of minor children
- you have property that you care about
- you care about your health care treatment.
If you do not have minor children, do not care about your property, and have no concerns about your health care treatment, then you do not need an estate plan. But if you meet any of these categories above, you should have an estate plan.
When Should I Start My Estate Plan?
The only time that you can prepare and implement an estate plan is while you
are alive and have legal capacity to enter into a contract. If you are unable
to manage your own affairs or suffer from some other disability which affects your legal capacity, your
estate plan may be effectively challenged by those who assert that you lacked capacity at the time the documents were
created, that you were subjected to fraud, coercion or undue influence during the creation and
implementation of your plan.
The best time to start an estate plan is now, while you have the capacity to do so.
Where Can I Find Some Examples?
Sometimes called a " Last Will and Test-ament", is to transfer property you hold in your name to the person you want to have it. A Will also typically names someone you select to be your Personal Repre-sentative (or "executor") to carry out your instructions
and names a Guardian if you have minor children. A Will only becomes effective upon your
death and after it is admitted to probate.
"Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care"
Appoints a person you designate to make decisions regarding your health care treat-ment in the event that you are unable to provide "informed consent".
"Living Will" or "Directive to Physicians"
Is an advance directive which gives doctors and hospitals your instructions regarding
providing or stopping health care treatment should you suffer permanent incapacity,
such as an irreversible coma.
"Durable Power of Attorney for Property"
Appoints a person you designate to act for you and handle financial matters should you be unable or perhaps unavailable to do so.
Can be used to hold legal title to and provide a mechanism to manage your property. You can select the person or persons you want -- often even yourself -- as the Trustee(s) to carry out the instructions you want in the Trust. Unlike a Will, a Trust, usually
becomes effective immediately, continues in force during your lifetime even in the event of your incapacity, and continues after your death.
Most Trusts are "revocable" which allows the person who creates the trust to make
future changes, modifications and even to terminate it. (If the trust is "irrevocable", changes, modifications and
termination are very difficult, although such trusts often carry some tax benefits). Trusts also help you avoid or minimize
the expenses, delays and publicity of probate.
"Family Limited Partnership"
To own and manage your property, in a similar manner to a Trust, but allowing additional tax planning techniques to be employed. Family Limited Partnerships are typically used for those who have large estates and thus have a need for specialized estate planning in order to avoid
federal and stateestate/death/inheritance taxes.
Should I Use A Lawyer?
Only an attorney who regularly practices in the fields of wills, trusts, probate and estate planning is able to provide you with really sound legal advice as you put your estate plan into
place. Attorneys are subject to regulation by bar organizations, many of which have continuing education require-ments and
mandatory liability insurance in case the lawyer makes a mistake.
When you speak with an attorney, you can get answers to your questions -- including how much it would cost.
Often the expense incurred in retaining an attorney to prepare and help you put an
estate plan into place is worth hundreds of times what you and your family would pay with no planning or poor planning. It would also avoid the financial and emotional nightmares that can occur with a poorly drafted (or improper) plan.
Simpler Times was established
to aid consumers and families in seeking out reputable firms who are dedicated to
providing practical and affordable options being sought by a growing number in today's changing society.