Estate planning is a general term for planning for your future, in case you ever need help handling your day-to-day affairs and/or your health care, and includes many or all of the following documents:
Powers of Attorney allow you to appoint a person to manage your finances and other property, if you cannot do so yourself. The person you appoint is known as your “agent.” You can also name a successor (or back-up) agent, in case your agent is unable or unavailable to serve. Your power of attorney can go into effect immediately or at some later, specified, time. Your power of attorney remains valid until you revoke it or die. When you die, your power of attorney “dies” with you. Your agent will not be able to handle any part of your estate once you have passed away.
Health Care Directives allow you to appoint a person to make your health care decisions, if you cannot do so yourself. It also allows you to state your wishes as to certain types of medical care, such as: Which pain relief medications you should not receive; if and for how long food and water should be artificially provided; if you would like CPR to be administered and if you would like to be an organ donor. It also makes your doctor or doctors aware of your wishes and aware of who will make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself.
Last Wills are documents by which you name those persons who and those organizations which will receive your estate assets after you die. The property you own when you die, in your name alone and without a designated beneficiary, makes up your estate. If you die without a last will, state laws determine which of your family members (heirs) will receive your estate assets.
Revocable (or Living) Trusts are created through a trust instrument prepared by an attorney. Trusts can hold the titles to your real estate, motor vehicles, investment accounts, bank accounts and tangible personal property.
You can change the terms of your revocable trust or terminate it at a later time.
You can serve as the initial trustee of the trust, thereby keeping full control over the trust assets. One or more successor trustees should be named in the trust so that management of the trust assets can be maintained if you become incapacitated or after you die.
Trust assets are distributed through the distribution provisions of the trust instrument, not through your last will. Also, trust assets are not subject to probate. But, you will still need a last will which “pours” your estate assets (ones not already titled to your trust) into you trust. The distribution provisions of the trust instrument then distributes all of your assets through its distribution provisions.
Irrevocable Trusts are less common than revocable trusts. Irrevocable trusts are usually established to accomplish a specific goal. Once you establish an irrevocable trust, you cannot change the terms of it or terminate the trust at a later time. Some irrevocable trusts are established through a revocable trust or a last will; such trusts are referred to as testamentary trusts.
We do not recommend will kits, trust kits and estate planning kits, as they cannot be tailored to your specific needs.