There are many tools used for the purpose of estate planning. Often, we just think of drafting a will as the necessary estate planning document. In truth, a will is only one small piece of the process.
An experienced estate planning attorney will take time to get to know your goals, your family dynamics, and your financial situation, before making recommendations on how to best plan for your final days and thereafter. Once your case evaluation is complete, they will then break down your options and suggest the best combination of legal documents to help you accomplish your estate planning objectives.
Wills and Trusts
Wills and trusts are the main tools used to direct the management of your estate after you pass. The two documents are similar, in that they allow you to document your wishes for your heirs regarding how you would like your estate handled.
Each tool is distinct, but one major difference is a will must be validated in probate court after your passing, whereas with a trust, your assets may be transferred directly after your death if that is your wish. With a will, the distribution of your estate can take months to complete through the process of probate. There is additional flexibility with a trust that allows you to stipulate not just who should benefit from your estate, but also when. With a will, your assets are distributed at the conclusion of probate.
In either case, your beneficiaries will likely require the assistance of an estate settlement attorney. When validating your will, the designated executor—the trusted person you choose to oversee the management of your estate—will likely find the assistance of a probate lawyer helpful. The probate process can be daunting, having a knowledgeable attorney from a trusted probate law firm can help your heirs feel reassured they are settling your estate as you had intended. With a trust, it is common for a legal advisor from an estate law firm to serve as the trust administrator.
An experienced will and trust estate lawyer will be able to analyze your estate planning needs and guide you through the process of establishing either a will or trust (or a combination of both), to suit your unique circumstances.
Financial & Medical Power of Attorney
Estate planning is more than just taking care of your assets after you’ve passed, it also includes planning for a time when you may be unavailable to make important decisions. In the event you become incapacitated and are unable to make choices for yourself, your loved ones can feel comforted that you’ve made your wishes clear by establishing a financial or medical power of attorney.
A financial power of attorney allows you to direct how your financial affairs should be handled, and by whom, should you be unable to personally take care of them. Whereas a medical power of attorney gives your physicians specific instructions on what types of medical treatment you do and do not wish to receive.
A local estate planner can help you establish these important estate planning documents, ensuring your wishes are respected.