Estate Planning


Estate planning is the area of law that is devoted to ensuring that the right people get your assets when you pass (and possibly before).  It is an honor and a privelege to work in this area of law because I firsthand see the very real impact I have on my clients lives and the lives of their families.  A traditional estate plan includes a LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT (who gets what, when) a POWER OF ATTORNEY (who is my financial agent in the event of incapacity) and HEALTH CARE PROXY (who is my health care agent in the event I am unable to express my wishes to a doctor or medical facility).  These documents are essential for each and every person over the age of eighteen to have in order to ensure that they have at least a basic plan in place for a catastrophic event.  Also, families may wish to discuss trusts to ensure that their property passes outside of the court system to their heirs, quickly and easily.  There are many different types of trust.  The most basic trust allows your family to AVOID PROBATE and the most complex can do wonders when it comes to ASSET PROTECTION, MEDICAID PLANNING, LONG TERM CARE PLANNING and PLANNING FOR BLENDED FAMILIES.


Some things that a LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT does are the following:

Purpose of a Last Will and Testament

  • ALWAYS goes through PROBATE
  • ALWAYS appoints an EXECUTOR
  • ALWAYS appoints a GUARDIAN or GUARDIANS for minor children
  • SOMETIMES establishes trusts for minors and beneficiaries
  • SOMETIMES establishes trusts for the surviving spouse

For more information on WILLS please view our videos in the WILL category to understand what obstacles can pop up when drafting and executing a will.  Also, feel free to call our office to schedule an appointment to discuss your particular situation.

A POWER OF ATTORNEY

A POWER OF ATTORNEY is a document that can give tremendous power to the agent named.  If you give your agent the power under this instrument they can do a number of things, including but not limited to:

Purpose of a Power of Attorney

  • SELL all of your personal effects
  • SELL all of your real estate
  • APPLY for governmental benefits (such as Medicaid) on your behalf
  • PAY your bills
  • ESTABLISH a trust for your benefit
  • ACCESS and transfer monies from your accounts
  • AND SO MUCH MORE!

Although this is a tremendous amount of power to bestow on another person, it’s an absolute necessity because of factors such as Dementia, Alzheimers and a slew of other diseases which might effect capacity.  Also, we want to ensure that this is in place in the event of a catastrophi accident or a stroke that could make you unable to tend to your financial affairs.  Doing a power of attorney can save you $20,000 or more in legal fees and time!  If you do not have a POWER OF ATTORNEY and need one, the only other option is for a family member or friend to apply for a GUARDIANSHIP for your benefit.  The process of GUARDIANSHIP can take months and cost thousands.  Please make sure you appoint a power of attorney agent today to obviate the need for such a costly and time consuming process.  Of course, the person you name as the agent you must TRUST completely.  For more information on POWERS OF ATTORNEY please view our videos in the POWER OF ATTORNEY category and feel free to call our office to schedule an appointment and discuss your needs.

HEALTH CARE PROXY


HEALTH CARE PROXY allows for your agent to make health decisions on your behalf in the event.  Like a POWER OF ATTORNEY, it also obviates the need for a GUARDIANSHIP proceeding, thereby saving you and your family thousands!  The Health Care Proxy specifically states who is empowered to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to communicate that to your doctor!  It is an absolute must have!!!! For more information on HEALTH CARE PROXIES  please view our videos in the HEALTH CARE PROXY category and feel free to call our office to schedule an appointment and discuss your needs.

TRUSTS


There are dozens of different kinds of trusts.  Some trusts are used to AVOID PROBATE, some are used in lieu of or in addition to a PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT, some are used to protect against LONG TERM CARE COSTS and assist in MEDICAID PLANNING.  There are trusts that are used to AVOID ESTATE TAXES or minimize them and still others to protect BLENDED FAMILIES.
 
AVOID PROBATE
 
Every kind of trust (except a testamentary trust-which is established in a will) is designed to AVOID PROBATE.  What is PROBATE and why do people want to avoid it?  PROBATE is the process of PROVING A WILL.  Even though a will can explain how you want your assets to be distributed after death, a court is still required in order to make sure that certain formalities were upheld during the execution of the will.  Some of the formalities include that a person has capacity, that there were two witnesses present (in some states the number varies) that the person knew who their children are and knew of their general assets.  The reason the court process is to be avoided is because it is expensive and time consuming.  It also is ripe for WILL CONTESTS.  A will is also a public document which anyone can go and print out after filed with a court.  Can you imagine a person you have never met 100 years after your death going to the court house to print out your will to see which kid you favored.  It is intrusive and most of my clients hate the thought of airing their dirty laundry like that.   Instead, I often suggest a REVOCABLE TRUST that AVOIDS PROBATE.  The benefits include the ease and simplicity of your heirs receiving their inheritance almost immediately, with no court intervention and a minimization of the estate distribution being contested by other family members.  Furthermore, the TRUST is completely PRIVATE thereby no one can see who you chose to give what to!
Other TRUSTS can also avoid LONG TERM CARE COSTS and help with MEDICAID PLANNING.  Also, for high net worth families, there are certain trusts that may alleviate the ESTATE TAX due.  TRUSTS are awesome and I absolutely LOVE THEM!!!  Call for an appointment to figure out which TRUST is best for you!
If you would like to establish Contact Elisha Law, PLLC for a consultation.