As your life continues to evolve, so should your legal and estate planning. The concerns you have as a single person, as a spouse or a parent with minor children, and when you are nearing or in your retirement years, are all different. Whether those issues include tax, inheritance or long-term health care planning, your legal documents should reflect the reality in your life today with the flexibility to adapt to changes in the future.
Now may be the time to revisit your legal planning to ensure you are addressing the concerns of today.
ESTATE PLANNING TAILORED TO MEET YOUR NEEDS
Estate planning is more than drafting a Will to appoint an executor and name your heirs. Every person has their own unique goals and concerns, and your estate plan should reflect your particular needs. Whether you are concerned about long-term care issues for yourself or your spouse, are a family with Special Needs individuals, are a blended family with children from a previous marriage, are parents with minor children, or want to ensure ease and efficiency in winding up your affairs, I can provide the legal planning necessary to ensure your goals are accomplished.
An effective estate plan should include a Will or a Living Trust, Powers of Attorney, a Living Will, and in some cases a Community Property Agreement.
A will is simply a legal expression of how you would like your estate to be divided upon your death. The person you name to administer your Will during the probate process is your Personal Representative (executor). With a Will, you can decide how you would like your estate to be distributed to your heirs, including through a Testamentary Trust, which can also be used for tax advantages.
Your Will should address not only who benefits from your estate, but how any inheritance is received. It involves making sure your wishes are respected and your heirs are provided for in in the same manner as if you were living, without making the IRS an unintended beneficiary
Testamentary Trusts: Created as a “blueprint” inside your Will, a testamentary trust allows you to leave an inheritance for an heir, rather than leaving the inheritance under the heir’s direct control. This allows you to provide for your loved ones in the same manner as if you were still living. A Testamentary Trust can ensure that funds are available for a child’s education, for a spouse’s long-term health care needs, to minimize estate taxes, or almost any other goal you may have. With a testamentary trust, you can decide how and when any inheritance will be received by your heirs, and under what conditions (if any).
Like a Will, A Living Trust contains instructions for how you would like your estate to be divided upon your death. While you are alive and capable of managing your own affairs, you are the caretaker of your Living Trust, and manage all the assets in your Trust as you always have. In the event you are incapacitated, the person you name as the Alternate Trustee will manage the Trust on your behalf, for your benefit. A properly maintained Living Trust avoids the need for probate, which can be especially useful if you own property in Washington and in another state. Upon your death, the winding up of your affairs is made easier through the use of a Living Trust. A Living Trust also allows for greater privacy in estate administration and is less susceptible to challenge, whereas the probate process with a Will is public record. For the majority of people, creating a Living Trust rather than a Will is not necessary and the benefits do not outweigh the extra time and energy necessary to maintain the Trust, but it can be a very useful tool in appropriate situations. A Testamentary Trust can be created as part of your Living Trust, just as in your Will.
DURABLE GENERAL POWER OF ATTORNEY
The Durable General Power of Attorney is very useful for short-term incapacitation or absence from the area. It is also used during longer or permanent periods of incapacitation, when you lack the ability to manage your own affairs. The person you designate as your Agent will be able to conduct business and financial matters on your behalf, including receipt and transfer of funds, entering into contracts, and other matters concerning the management and care of your estate. A Durable General Power of Attorney can be effective immediately, meaning that the person you have designated as your primary agent can act on your behalf as soon as it is signed, or can be effective upon disability, as determined by a physician.
Having comprehensive, up-to-date Powers of Attorney is one of the most important parts of your estate plan. These are the legally effective instructions that you provide to make sure that your Agent can manage your affaires at a time when you are no longer capable.
HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY
The Health Care Power of Attorney is used if you are unable to give your doctor or other health care professional instructions or communicate your wishes regarding health care. The person you name as your Agent will be able to make medical decisions on your behalf, such as authorizing medical procedures, admit and discharge you from the hospital, manage medications, and communicate with your doctor when you are unable to do so for yourself. This document also acts as a medical release form, allowing your doctors to provide your medical information under the health care privacy laws (HIPAA) to your Agent so they can make informed decisions.
This document is also used when you are unable to communicate for yourself. Also known as a Directive to Physicians, I think of the Living Will as a gift to your loved ones that expresses your wishes regarding the use of artificial means of life support if there is no expectation that you will survive, or have any degree of quality of life. While your health care Agent under the Power of Attorney is authorized to make medical decisions for you, the Living Will is your medical decision in the event you are in a terminal, vegetative state, and gives your loved ones direction and guidance when faced with making difficult end-of-life decisions.
Call today to discuss these or other estate and long-term care issues. There is no charge for initial consultations.