General Legal Information
- Document your intentions
- Transfer assets to people or trusts you choose
- Appoint guardian for children
- Appoint agent to make medical decisions if you become incapacitated
- Appoint agent to make financial decisions if you become incapacitated
- Minimize expenses and taxes after death
- Facilitate transfer of assets to persons and organizations of your choosing after death
- Increase peace of mind
If you have a will, you choose who gets your property and who will raise your children. Without a will, the state will determine this for you based upon interpretation of state law!
When is a basic will enough? If you are under 50 and don't have assets that are subject to estate taxes, a basic will may be adequate for you. It can distribute your property as you desire, name a guardian for your children, and name an executor who can see that your wishes are carried out.
Does a basic will avoid probate? No, and this can take up to a year and eat up 3-8% of your estate in court and lawyer fees.
Preparing a basic will
- Probate is a state legal process to value your possessions and distribute your assets according to your will, or according to state law if there is no will.
- Probate may be desirable in contested situations. Otherwise, probate only takes time and money.
- Probate is a public process and the information filed during probate is public.
Living trusts are a way to avoid probate.
You will need to name a trustee that, while you are alive, can be you.
At death a successor trustee takes over and distributes your assets in accord with your wishes. This can be accomplished quickly and without court costs or legal fees.
Discuss with your attorney if a will or a trust is right for you.
Even with a trust, you will need a backup will.
Benefits of trusts
- Avoid probate: delay, expense, and publicity
- Isolate and transfer assets even if your will is contested
- Simplify distribution of assets that are indivisible or in different states
- Protect assets from creditors or lawsuits
- Delay the transfer of assets until a later time or event
Incapacity may be defined by your doctor.
Designate a durable power of attorney for financial affairs, an agent who will make financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
Designate a durable power of attorney for health affairs, an agent who will make medical decisions for you in accordance with your Advance Directive, if you have one.
Make sure you have an Advance Directive which is updated and available to your loved ones, your doctor, your attorney and your designated durable power of attorney for health affairs.
Goes into effect if a doctor certifies you as incapacitated (called a springing durable power of attorney for financial affairs).
Durable Financial Power of Attorney ends at your death and is replaced by the executor of your estate.
Minimizing taxes is an important part of estate planning.
This also may require coordination with an insurance agent to provide funds to cover taxes to avoid having to sell assets to cover taxes.
Gifting while you are still alive is a popular way to reduce assets and future taxes.
For the following people, create a list with the following information for each person: name, phone numbers, email addresses
- Next of Kin
- Health Care Surrogate
- Health Care Surrogate Alternate
- Primary Physician
- Primary Specialist
- Others (e.g, business partners, important friends)
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