Estate planning involves a well-rounded review of the current assets and plan for distribution of those assets upon the death of the client. Based upon that review, the client may develop a plan which incorporates the drafting of a number of documents and a variety of tools within those documents.
Revocable Living Trusts – Revocable living trusts are frequently drafted to assist clients who wish to avoid probate. These trusts are utilized to hold assets, allowing a client to transfer ownership of property and investments from their individual name to the ownership of the trust, so that upon the death of the client the trust can continue to own and manage the property – thereby avoiding probate. The trust must be funded to truly avoid probate. If funded, a trust can also provide property management in the event of incompetence or disability.
Wills – Wills transfer assets through the probate process. A client can designate how non-beneficiary and non-jointly held property will be transferred in a validly executed will. A client also has the ability to designate a guardian for a minor child in a will.
In both revocable living trusts and wills, a client can incorporate tax planning and trusts for minor beneficiaries or beneficiaries with special needs. If this is a concern for you, make sure you discuss this with your attorney.
General power of attorney – These grant an individual authority to manage the financial affairs of another individual during their lifetime. This is a document that should be discussed with an attorney, to determine who you should appoint and whether you should place any limitations on the instrument.
Health care power of attorney – These grant an individual authority to make medical decisions on behalf of another individual. This document is important in the event of a medical emergency or illness.