Wills, Powers of Attorney, Trusts & Estate Planning. Estate Planning involves the protection, preservation, and management of your estate in the event of disability or death. The goal of any plan is to ensure our wishes are followed, while minimizing or avoiding living and death probate, costs and taxes. With proper planning, (1) we assure that our assets go to the people we choose upon our death; (2) we minimize state and federal taxes (such as estate, gift, and generation skipping transfer taxes); (3) we appoint trustees and guardians for our children; and, (4) we appoint people to handle our affairs when we are not able.
There are four core estate planning documents: the Last Will and Testament (or simply “will“), a Durable Property Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney, and a Living Will (Declaration of Desire for a Natural Death). It is imperative that included within some of the core documents are applicable HIPAA provisions and specific end of life directives.
A will only has legal authority upon your death, and it will guarantee the deceased’s family has to go through probate. A will may include provisions for payment of final debts, specific bequests, residuary estate distributions, certain tax planning provisions, provisions for minors and special needs guardianship provisions, and trust provisions. Wills are not cookie-cutter and never should they be deemed a “one size fits all” document.
A durable property power of attorney allows us to entrust another to do something with our place while we are alive, and, generally, only while we are incompetent or incapacitated. A durable power of attorney should include provisions for exactly when and under what circumstances the powers will be effective, and spell out the specific powers granted.
A health care power of attorney ensures that someone of our choosing will make medical decisions on our behalf (not financial or other decisions) in the instances that we are unable to do so for ourselves. A health care power of attorney may include our personal preferences as to our care which we desire to apply in certain circumstances, living will directives, and guardianship provisions.
A living will Is a statement of our wishes to our physicians, medical institutions, and loved-ones for the type and manner of life-sustaining medical intervention we want, or don’t want, in the event that we become terminally ill and are unable to communicate our desires relative to withholding and/or discontinuing life-sustaining medical interventions.
Beyond the four core estate planning documents are a vast array of advanced estate planning tools, including a myriad of trusts. One of the most familiar trust alternatives is the revocable living trust. This type of trust is commonly utilized to avoid probate while maintaining management and control of our assets. A properly created living trust, coupled with proper titling of our assets in the living trust’s name, eliminates the requirement for court involvement for any assets which are to be transferred at our death to our loved ones. In addition to avoiding probate, a revocable living trust allows for optimum tax planning using applicable estate tax exemptions, and allowing the settlor to set forth personalized and detailed distributions.
Seidel Gamber, PLLC offers services to design and administer estate plans, regardless of the size of the estate. We provide knowledgeable and client-specific planning at a reasonable price. In order to set up a free consultation, please call us at 919.237.3405 or e-mail us at [email protected].