Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Today's Probate Answers

Do All Estate Planning Attorneys Offer Wills?

How Would I Know If a Will Is More Appropriate Than a Living Trust? Are There Specific Questions I Should Be Asking?

On the financial side, a good estate plan coordinates what will happen with your home, your investments, your business, your life insurance, your employee benefits (such as a 401(k) plan), and other property in the event you become disabled or die. On the personal side, a good estate plan includes directions to carry out your wishes regarding health care matters. So, if you ever are unable to give the directions yourself, someone you select would do that for you, and know when you would want them to authorize heroic measures and when you would prefer they pull the plug.

Several of the following documents are typically used as part of the estate planning process:

• A Will, sometimes called a Last Will and Testament, to transfer property you hold in your name to the person(s) and/or organization(s) you want to have it. A Will also typically names someone you select to be your Personal Representative (or Executor) to carry out your instructions and names a guardian if you have minor children. A Will only takes effect upon your death.

• A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care appoints a person you designate to make decisions regarding your health care treatment in the event that you are unable to provide informed consent.

• A Living Will or Directive to Physicians is an advance directive that gives doctors and hospitals your instructions regarding the nature and extent of the care you want should you suffer permanent incapacity, such as an irreversible coma.

• A Durable Power of Attorney appoints a person you designate to act for you and handle financial matters should you be unable or perhaps unavailable to do so.

• A Living Trust can be used to hold legal title to and provide a mechanism to manage your property. You can select the person or persons you want as the Trustee(s) to carry out the instructions you want in the Trust and name one or more Successor Trustees to take over if you cannot. Unlike a Will, a Trust usually becomes effective immediately, continues in force during your lifetime even in the event of your incapacity, and continues after your death. Trusts also help you avoid or minimize the expenses, delays, and publicity of Probate.

• A Family Limited Partnership can be used to own and manage your property, in a similar manner to a Trust, but allowing additional tax planning techniques to be employed.

Since a Will is part of a good estate plan, a qualified estate planning attorney will have the ability to write a Will for you.

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