Do you want control of decisions deciding if you live or die, who your dependent children will live with if you were to pass on or where the assets you have worked so hard to obtain will go? Without a properly structured Estate Plan, these important decisions will be left to the courts to decide or passed along to who they deem most appropriate. With a properly established Estate Plan, you remain in control of these paramount issues.
Numerous studies show that 50% of Americans do not have an estate plan, will or medical directive. What is it they have at risk? To answer this question let’s look at the individual portions of a proper estate plan; the trust, the will, the living will, healthcare directives and power of attorney directives.
A Living or Inter Vivos Trust is an instrument which allows individuals to avoid the cost and expense of probate. Trusts are living documents in as much as they can be changed during your lifetime. Once you die, however, the trust becomes “irrevocable” requiring your successor trustees and beneficiaries to follow your desires. Trusts are also private documents, meaning you do not need the court or attorneys to administer.
A Will or Testament is the oldest established means for transferring property. A Will allows you to designate beneficiaries and Administers. This allows you to avoid default laws termed Intestacy. For our purposes we will draft your Will to include your personal assets, these assets will then “pour” into the Trust in the case of your death. The will is also the document where you specify where your dependent children would go if you were to pass away. This decision is too important to hand over to the courts and can be something that divides families.
A living will is an important health directive. The document identifies to the world your desires in case of a life or death situation where artificial life support is needed. Without a Living Will your friends and relatives may fight amongst themselves as to whether or not to terminate your life support.
Health Care Directive/Power of Attorney
As we age, a good portion of our country is diagnosed with illnesses which may eventually rob them of their capacity to care for themselves. Because the Trust only comes into play when a person dies, individuals may need a temporary guardian who can access their medical and financial records for the duration of their lives. This necessitates a Health Care Directive or Power of Attorney. The Power of Attorney will assist individuals in filing taxes, access medical records, sell jointly owned property, and obtain government assistance.
No one intentionally leaves important decisions to the courts, but millions fail to take the steps to ensure their own wishes are carried out. Guardian Law will walk you through the process to establish a proper estate plan; they will help you understand your options and create the documents that put you in control.