Planning for your future is an exciting time, especially when you are sharing that plan with a loved one, such as a spouse or life partner. You may have heard that your future should include an “estate plan,” and this is very true. Estate planning is the process of arranging your assets and affairs to make sure that your wishes are carried out in the event you are unable to accomplish them yourself, either due to incapacity or death.
Estate planning can include a variety of different documents, depending on your family and its needs. The most common document included in an estate plan is a Will. A Will lists who should receive your assets after you pass away. If you have minor children, your Will also provides guidance to the applicable court regarding who you think is best suited to provide the care for your minor children. Two additional documents that are usually included as part of an overall, comprehensive estate plan include a Medical Durable Power of Attorney and a Living Will (also known sometimes as an “Advance Directive”). In a Medical Durable Power of Attorney, you designate a trusted friend or family member to make your medical decisions for you if you are unable to make such decisions for yourself. A living will, by contrast, makes your desires known regarding your artificial nutrition and hydration in the event that you are in a persistent vegetative state with otherwise no hope for recovery. It will be up to your attending physician to determine if you have a medical condition sufficiently severe to follow the provisions of your Living Will. Trusts are oftentimes also included in an overall estate plan. A trust is a legal arrangement whereby the ownership of certain assets is divided between the trustee (who receives legal ownership of such assets) and the beneficiaries (who receive beneficial ownership of such assets). In a trust, an individual (known as the grantor) transfers assets into the trust, and then designates a trustee to administer the trust.. The grantor also designates one or more beneficiaries to receive distributions from the trust, as well as dictate the conditions under which the distributions can be made. Trusts come in many different forms, and each different form provides its own advantages and disadvantages. Only an experienced estate planning attorney can help you select the right one for your individual situation.
Estate planning is essential to making sure that your future and that of your friends and loved ones goes according to your personalized plan. Contact us today to talk about what we can do to help you achieve your goals.