Attorney and Counselor at Law
Many people think estate planning involves complicated financial arrangements, and is just for the wealthy, or the elderly. But everyone has an estate (which is just a fancy name for everything you own), and estate planning is about much more than just minimizing taxes or avoiding probate. Estate planning is about taking a few small steps now, to protect your loved ones, and your assets, both now and in the future.
The process of estate planning begins with thinking about what you own, and what you would like to happen when you die or if you can no longer take care of your own affairs. A qualified attorney can help you to begin this process, and guide you through all of the steps necessary to accomplish your goals.
Estate planning can help you to:
* Determine who will take care of your property, and make decisions about your health care, if you are incapacitated;
* Minimize the difficulty and cost of transferring your property when you die;
* Make arrangements for the care of your children, and your pets, when you are unable to care for them;
* Provide for the orderly transition of ownership and management of your business;
* Eliminate stress and expense for your loved ones;
* Ensure that your property will be used wisely to provide financial security for yourself and your loved ones.
Photographs on this page courtesy of (unknown) (l) and La Antoinette Photography (r).
Probate: A court proceeding to wind-up a person's legal and financial affairs after death, and distribute his or her property. The distribution may be guided by a will, if there is one, or by state laws that determine who gets the assets, if there is no will.
Will: A document that details how a person wants their property distributed when they die, and who is to handle the distribution and winding-up of affairs. A will may also make provisions for the guardianship of children if both parents are deceased. A will does not avoid probate.
Revocable (or "living") Trust: A means of maintaining control over property while still alive, but also providing for the orderly transfer of that property without probate, upon death. Ownership of the property is transferred to a trustee (who may be the original owner, or "settlor"), who then manages the property in accordance with the terms of the trust. Upon death of the original owner/trustee, the property is automatically transferred to a successor trustee, who is also required to control and distribute the property as specified in the trust document. The terms of the trust may be modified, or the trust revoked entirely, during the lifetime of the settlor. A revocable trust does not avoid estate taxes, but may eliminate the need for probate (or simplify the process if it is necessary).
Living Will: A document that specifies a person's wishes with respect to medical treatment, in specified situations.
Health Care Proxy: A document that specifies an agent to make health care decisions for a person who is unable to do so.
Power of Attorney: A document that authorizes a named agent to carry out someone's affairs (either certain specified matters, or all matters) while they are still alive.