Estate Planning is a process of preparing for someone to manage and/or distribute your assets when you are deceased or incapacitated, and for other end-of-life decisions, such as wishes regarding life support and medical care.
Estate Planning may involve the preparation of a Will, a Trust, a Power of Attorney, an Advance Health Care Directive and/or other documents. An attorney can help you decide what estate plan is right for you.
DO I NEED A LIVING TRUST OR A WILL?
A will specifies who will receive a person's property when they die, and who will distribute it. The will can nominate who will take care of minor children if both parents die, and who will take care of the children's money. If a person dies without a will the law has a default plan for who will receive their property (spouse, then children, then parents, etc).
Many people have a revocable living trust prepared as part of their estate plan. Like a will, the living trust provides for the distribution of property, but it also avoids probate. Probate is necessary to transfer property of a deceased person if they owned real property that was not in trust or joint tenancy, or if they had assets of more than $165,000 that didn't have beneficiaries or a joint owner. Some more complex trusts are used for avoiding estate taxes for persons with large estates. Also, a Special Needs Trust can be prepared to protect the assets of a beneficiary receiving SSI or other public benefits.
POWERS OF ATTORNEY
Other common documents that are prepared as part of an estate plan are an Advanced Health Care Directive and a Springing Power of Attorney for Finances. In the Advanced Health Care Directive you specify your health care desires and who would make health care decisions for you if you cannot. The special Springing Power of Attorney for finances only takes effect if you are incapacitated. It can be helpful if you have a stroke or dementia at some point in your life so that someone can pay your bills and manage your finances without having to be appointed as your Conservator.
PREPARING FOR ESTATE PLANNING
To prepare for an estate planning appointment, you can review the information on the page:
Preparing For An Estate Planning Appointment
and you can fill out the Questionnaire to bring to your appointment
For more information you can follow the links:
Additional Information for Your Trustee or Executor (printable PDF)
Planning for Property Transfer on Your Death
Powers of Attorney
Understanding Estate Planning Vocabulary
If you would like to make an appointment with Sally Cooperrider for a free 15 minute phone consultation to review your existing estate plan, please use the "Book Now" button on the side of this page. Or call (408) 287-7719.