Estate Planning

We will assist you with your Estate Planning in a process that starts with identifying your property and assets and determining who should receive your property at death. The planning process includes determining who should manage your property and assets in the event of disability or death. Estate Planning also involves a review of how your assets are titled and if beneficiaries are designated. Last, the appropriate legal documents are prepared to meet your wishes and ensure that your estate plan is comprehensive and considers all of your property and assets.

A typical estate plan includes a Last Will and Testament (with trusts for minor beneficiaries, disabled beneficiaries, or pets); a General Durable Power of Attorney; a Medical Durable Power of Attorney; a HIPAA Authorization; and a Living Will. In some circumstances, a Trust may also be part of an estate plan.

Last Will and Testament

A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that states who you want your property and assets to be distributed to at your death and any specific instructions about how the distributions are to be made. In your Last Will and Testament, you appoint a guardian of your minor children, a personal representative (also known as an executor) to manage your estate, and, if necessary, a trustee to manage the property passing to a minor child or a disabled person.

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General Durable Power of Attorney

A General Durable Power of Attorney (also known as a Financial Durable Power of Attorney) is a legal document that designates a person, known as an agent, to manage your financial affairs and legal matters should you become unable to do so yourself. A General Durable Power of Attorney can be drafted to grant authority to the agent to act on your behalf with regard to all financial and legal matters or can be drafted to grant only limited authority to the agent (e.g., to sign documents at a real estate closing). The agent you designate must be someone you completely trust.

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Medical Durable Power of Attorney

A Medical Durable Power of Attorney (also known as a Health Care Power of Attorney) is a legal document that designates a person, known as an agent, to make your health care decisions in the event you become unable to communicate your wishes due to incapacity. You may grant your agent broad authority or limited authority over your medical treatment and decisions. Your Medical Durable Power of Attorney should be current under HIPAA (explained below) and if it was prepared prior to 2004, you should have it reviewed by an experienced estate planning attorney to determine if it is HIPAA compliant.

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HIPAA

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (P.L. No. 104-191). Most provisions of HIPAA were made effective in April 2003 and the remaining provisions were made effective in April 2004. HIPAA is primarily concerned with providing privacy protections to consumers of the health care systems.

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Living Will

A Living Will is also known as a Declaration as to Medical or Surgical Treatment. It memorializes your wishes as to when and to what extent steps should be taken to preserve your life if you are not otherwise able to communicate. It is a unilateral document in that you do not designate someone to act for you to carry out your end-of-life decisions, but rather the document itself dictates your decisions in the event your health status is terminal as certified by two physicians. It is very important that your Medical Durable Power of Attorney and your Living Will are coordinated so it is clear what should happen in the event there is a real or perceived conflict in the two documents. A Living Will can be drafted to reflect your religious or philosophical beliefs.

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Trusts

A Trust is an agreement between three parties. The first party is the person who creates the trust document or agreement and is referred to as the settlor or grantor. The second party is the person or entity who administers or manages the trust pursuant to the terms of the trust agreement and is known as the trustee. The third party is the person or entity who benefits from the trust and is known as the beneficiary.

We assist you to determine if a trust should be part of your estate plan and then we draft a customized trust to meet your needs. A trust can be established in your Last Will and Testament (known as a testamentary trust) or established during your life. Trusts can be used to support the special needs of minor children or disabled individuals, to insure income for a surviving spouse, to plan for gift and estate taxes, to transfer property, to support a charity, to plan for public benefits such as Medicaid and long-term care, or pay for education.

Trusts established during a person’s life include Revocable Living Trusts, Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts, Charitable Remainder Trusts. A revocable trust offers flexibility. However, irrevocable trusts have tax advantages that revocable trusts do not have.

While the drafting of the trust agreement is very important, it also must be funded with assets for it to work. Once a trust is established, we assist with the transfer of assets into the trust to be managed by you, by someone else, or by a professional. We represent trustees and other fiduciaries to ensure compliance with trust laws and with the trust agreement. Proper trust administration is critical to ensure the trust you established is effective.

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