Estate planning is one of the most important steps that you can take to make sure that a person’s final property and health care wishes are honored, and that their loved ones are taken care of.
What is an Estate
Your “Estate” consists of all the property owned by you at the time of your death. Such as:
- Real estate property
- Bank accounts
- Stock, pensions, retirement accounts
- Personal property such as cars, jewelry, furniture etc.
How can an Estate Plan help
- Identify the family members or others that you wish to give your property to now and/or after your death
- Ensures that your property will be transferred to the person you designate.
- Minimize the amount of taxes that will need to be paid
- Executing documents that allow you to determine the life-prolonging medical care you wish to receive or not receive
- You can decide what type of funeral you would like, and how the expenses are to be paid
- Decide who cares for your children
What is a Will
A Will is a legal document that allows you to choose who will receive your real and personal property after your death. It will also insure who will take care of your minor children.
Who should make a Will
Everyone should have a Will. A Will is the only way to make sure your assets are distributed according to your wishes, even if you only have a few assets. If you die without a Will or a Will that is not valid, the state will decide, by statute, how your assets are to be distributed. The final distribution can be complicated, take longer and may not be according to your wishes.
An important part of your Will is stating the person who will be the Executor, the person you name who administers the estate. The Executor collects all the assets, pays any debt, and distributes your property according to your instruction in your Will.
When do you need to change your Will
You should update, edit, change or create a new Will if you marry or divorce; if you had more children, or if you bought and sold real estate.
How to make changes to an existing Will
You can change, add to or even revoke your Will at any time before your death as long as you are competent. A change to a Will is called a Codicil.
You cannot simply cross out words and add a new change in; you have to formally execute the codicil, meaning it must be done the same way the Will was executed.
The Seven Essentials of a Will
- You must be of legal age.
- You must be of sound mind. This means you know that you are executing a Will and you know what property you have and you know who you want to leave that property to.
- Your Will must indicate your intent to make the document your final word on what to do with your property.
- Your Will must be voluntarily signed by you, the testator.
- Your Will must be written.
- Your Will must be witnessed by two individuals, who are disinterested, not getting anything in the Will.
- It must be properly executed, meaning that it must contain a statement attesting that this is your Will, the date and time you signed it, and the fact that you signed it in front of witnesses, who then also sign it in front of you.
What is a Trust
A trust is a legal relationship in which one person (trustee) holds the property for the benefit of another (beneficiary). The property can be real or personal property. You (the settlor) would create the trust for the benefit of either yourself or others.
A trust is usually done in conjunction with a Will when you have minor children.
Do You need a Financial Power of Attorney
It is a good idea for almost anyone who has property or an income to sign a durable power of attorney for their finances, especially if you have health issues that would prevent you from managing your finances on your own. Making a durable power of attorney ensures that someone you trust will manage your financial responsibilities.
What is a health care proxy
A written instrument which names another person to make health care decisions for you, after a doctor certifies in writing that you can no longer make health care decisions for yourself. The proxy becomes operative only when you become incapacitated and unable to understand the nature and consequences of health care decisions. You may revoke a Health Care Proxy verbally or in writing.
This information is intended only to be an introductory guideline because each case is unique and presents different issues. If you have questions please feel free to contact our office.