WILLS & TRUSTS
Will: Also referred to as a Last Will and Testament, a will designates who receives your assets when you die. A Will also names a Personal Representative (Executor), oversees the administration of your estate. If you have minor children, your Will is where you appoint a Guardian. A Will only becomes effective upon your death and is subject to probate.
Trust: A trust is an agreement that appoints a Trustee to manage and administer the property of the person creating the trust (Trustmaker). Although there are many different types of trusts, the most common trust for estate planning is a revocable living trust. While you're alive and well, you are the Trustmaker, Trustee and beneficiary of your trust. As the Trustee, you oversee all of the trust assets and use them as you see fit. If you become incapacitated, a Successor Trustee assumes control of the trust assets and ensures that your needs are met. At your death, your trust is like an instruction manual for how you want your estate administered. One of the great benefits of a properly funded living trust is the fact that it will avoid or minimize the expense, delays and publicity associated with probate.
Your estate plan should also include:
Durable Power of Attorney: If you become incapacitated (unable to effectively manage your financial affairs) you need to have someone appointed to handle them for you. This will allow your appointed agent to access your financial accounts, handle your taxes and manage your real property. Without a properly drafted power of attorney, it may be necessary to apply to a court to have a guardian or conservator appointed to make decisions for you during a period of incapacitation. (Translation: A huge headache).
Health Care Power of Attorney: When you are unable to make your own health care decisions, your designated health care agent will make them for you. Your agent will follow the instructions that you have outlined in this document.
HIPAA Authorization: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act mandates the confidential handling of your protected health information. Medical providers may only share your medical information with people whom you have specifically designated.
Living Will: For end-of-life medical decisions, a Living Will spells out what you want or don't want done to keep you alive. This may include instructions for resuscitation, mechanical breathing, tube feeding and medication. Your Living Will also has information concerning organ donation.