Estate planning involves a well-rounded review of the current assets and plans for distribution of those assets upon the death of a 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 documents frequently drafted to assist clients who wish to avoid probate. The trusts are utilized as holding entities, 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 trusts must be funded to truly avoid probate. By doing so, these trusts can also be used for property management in the event of incompetence or disability.
Wills – These are documents which 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 is his will.
In both revocable living trusts and wills, clients can incorporate tax planning trusts and trusts for beneficiaries with disabilities or special needs. If you need to consider this type of planning, make sure you talk to your attorney about incorporating language in your documents regarding these issues.
General power of attorney – An individual can execute a general power of attorney to grant someone authority to manage their financial affairs on their behalf. This is a document that should be discussed with an attorney to get advice on who to appoint and to discuss any limitations you would like to place on the instrument.
Health care power of attorney – An individual can execute a health care power of attorney to grant someone authority to make medical decisions on their behalf. This document is important in the event of a medical emergency or disability.