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Understanding Estate Plan Documents

Estate planning is the process of planning for the orderly management and transfer of your property.  Estate planning is for everyone because everyone has an estate, whether they consider themselves wealthy or not.

The word “estate” is nothing more than a term used to describe all of the things that people own.  This would include things such as cars, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, homes and other real estate, home furnishings, and other personal property.

Your estate plan should accomplish your specific goals, but it can include any combination of the examples below. In addition to naming the family members and other loved ones who you want to receive your property, an estate plan can be used to:

  • Name trusted family members or friends to act as your agents in the event you experience a period of incapacity;
  • Provide directions for your health care if you experience a period of incapacity;
  • Name a guardian to care for any minor children and name a trustee to manage the inheritance you leave for any minor children;
  • Establish protections for family members who do not manage money well or who may need protection from creditors or divorce;
  • Leave an inheritance for family members who may have special needs so that their eligibility for government benefits such as Medicaid is protected;
  • Reduce taxes, court costs, unnecessary legal fees, and increase the ease with which your property is transferred;
  • Avoid the probate process with the proper use of Living Trusts.

The attorneys at Staunton & Faglie, PL can help with any of the objectives above or with any other goals or concerns you may have.  Call now if you have questions or if you are ready to speak with an attorney about any aspect of your estate planning goals.  You can also continue to the next page if you would like to read more.

People put off estate planning for many reasons

Often, it is because they do not know where to start on what can seem like an overwhelming process. At Staunton & Faglie, PL, we strive to make the process easier for our clients by making it more understandable.

As previously mentioned, estate planning is simply the process of planning for the orderly management and transfer of your property.  It is a process that should center on you and your goals, and it should be an expression of your wishes and values.

The Orderly Management of Your Property

Your estate plan needs to plan for your possible incapacity. You plan for incapacity by selecting people you trust in advance so they can act as your agents when you cannot act for yourself.  A big part of this planning is to give your agents the authority to manage your property and your personal affairs.  An equally important part of incapacity planning is to give your agents the authority to make health care decisions and to make your wishes known about end of life care.  The documents ordinarily used for incapacity planning consist of a Durable Power of Attorney, a Designation of Health Care Surrogate, and a Living Will.

The Orderly Transfer of Your Property

Your estate plan also needs to plan for your certain death.  You plan for death by deciding in advance how you want your property divided and by identifying the people to whom it should be distributed.  The basic document used for this planning is a Last Will and Testament.  However, other documents can also be used such as Revocable Living Trusts, Irrevocable Living Trusts, and Testamentary Trusts.  Living Trusts also provide a double benefit because the funds in a Living Trust can be managed for your benefit in the event of incapacity.  Testamentary Trusts cannot provide this double benefit because they are created through a Last Will and Testament.  This means they do not come into existence until after death.

Taking the First Step

The first step in creating your estate plan is to have an understanding of why you need a plan.  From there, you simply need to answer two personal questions that have no wrong or right answers.  You need to answer the question of how you would want to be cared for if you ever become incapacitated and you need to answer the question of how you want your property distributed upon your death.