Your estate is comprised of everything you own—your car, home, other real estate, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, furniture, and other personal possessions. No matter how large or how modest, everyone has an estate. With advanced planning, you can control which assets will be disposed of in accordance with your Will and/or Trust and which assets will be distributed outside of your probate estate. A majority of bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies will transfer ownership at death through payable on death designations (POD), joint tenancy with right of survivorship, or a designated beneficiary. We can help you determine which of these, if any, works best for you and your estate plan.
Creating an estate plan is the best method to control how your estate is distributed to the people or organizations you care most about. To ensure your wishes are carried out, your Will and/or Trust will detail who is and is not included, what real and personal property each person receives, and when your probate assets are distributed. A Will should name a qualified person to serve as an Executor. Likewise, a Trust should name a qualified person to serve as the Trustee. If you are wondering who should serve as an Executor and/or Trustee, you should eliminate those persons with felony records, misdemeanor crimes of theft, gamblers, drug addicts, and persons with debt issues.
Your estate plan should consider how to reduce the risk of a will contest, how to protect a loved one with special needs, and potential creditor issues, including taxes. An estate plan is not complete unless you have also considered whether you want to execute a Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, and Designation of Guardian If Need Arises. An agent under a durable power of attorney will be able to make financial decisions for you while you are alive. In contrast, an agent under a Medical Power of Attorney and Medical Directive will direct your doctors in making medical choices that are consistent with your wishes. The designation of a guardian is your way of signifying your preference on who should serve as your court-appointed Guardian if you become incapacitated and require a court-ordered guardian to make financial or medical decisions for you. Frequently, a power of attorney for financial and medical affairs will alleviate the need for a guardianship.