Estate Plan Documents
A Will is probably the first document thought of when discussing an Estate Plan. The Will is very important and must be done compliant with the law or, legally, it doesn’t exist. A Will essentially allows you to allocate your assets to beneficiaries in particular circumstances at your death, and then we are done. End of story. For a married couple, each individual has their own Will. For Estate Plans that include a Trust, this Will will usually be a pour-over Will. A pour-over Will essentially says that any assets you forgot to put in the Trust go into the Trust.
A Trust can do a lot of important things even for us regulars. While a Will follows your directions, hands out your assets and is done, a Trust can carry on your direction and oversight for years, decades and longer. First, a Trust avoids much of the expense and delays of Probate. It also can better manage distributions to minors and other who might have particular challenges like drugs, gambling, debts and unsteady relationships. While Wills are per person, a Trusts in a married couple’s plan is usually a joint Trust and is “revocable.” Being revocable, the couple loses no control over the assets.
Durable Power of Attorney
The Durable Power of Attorney, or DPOA, allows you to pick an agent who can transact most any business that you can personally. The agent is a “fiduciary” with the legal responsibility to act only in your best interest, not theirs. Some people wait until they cannot conduct their own business before granting the DPOA, while many want their agent to just help them take care of business. The “Durable” in the title means that even if you are no longer competent to conduct your won business, your agent can. This feature is particularly important as this with the following document can obviate the need to go to court for a guardianship should not be legally able to conduct your own business. Each individual will have a DPOA and make their own choices as to agents.
Advance Directive including Health Care Power of Attorney
The Advance Directive set of documents allows you to state what you desire in the case where you would die without artificial support, in the case where you have died (your heart has stopped), and who should speak for you to the doctors if you are unable to do so at a particular point in time. As indicated above, the Health Care Power of Attorney coupled with the DPOA can avoid the need for your family to go to court for a guardianship should you become incompetent. Each individual will have their own Advance Directive/Health Care Power of Attorney.