The simplest Estate Plan consists of a will. However, leaving your estate through a will requires your loved ones to go through Probate after you die, which usually takes a year or longer to complete. This only adds additional stress to the already painful reality one suffers after the death of a loved one.
In addition to the will most people add a Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney.
A better Estate Plan will include a Revocable Living (or Family) Trust or an Irrevocable Living Trust in addition to the above.
When you utilize a trust to pass your assets, Probate is avoided entirely. This is especially important for a small one or two owner business, for the business can continue uninterrupted without the interference of the Probate process.
Also, a trust is the only way to direct the distribution and disposition of your estate for years after your death, even allowing you to skip a generation. For instance, one can direct through the trust that a certain amount of money or any kind of property be given to a grandchild, but only when she turns 35 years of age.
An irrevocable trust can also be used to protect your assets from predators during life.
There are many types of trusts and it is important to retain an attorney who can guide you in the right choices concerning the type of trust you need to accomplish your goals. A revocable trust fills the need of most people but some need an irrevocable trust for asset protection and other special needs.
The most common trusts are:
Revocable Living (or Family) Trust
Irrevocable Family Trust
Asset Protection Trust
Special Needs Trust (for seriously injured or handicapped persons)
Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY
This is another very important part of a good Estate Plan. It is valid only during the lifetime of the giver of the Power. It usually deals with the assets of one who cannot deal with those assets himself, but can also be used when the giver of the power can handle his own affairs. One example of this is a Special Power of Attorney given for one specific task or for a specific period of time.
We at the Greene Law Firm believe that every adult should give a durable power of attorney to someone you trust implicitly, such as your spouse, child or parent. Having a power of attorney in place can save thousands of dollars and untold headaches should you become incapacitated and not be able to handle your own affairs. It gives the one you trust the power to handle your financial and other affairs during any period when you cannot. Note again that a Power of Attorney has no effect after the giver of the Power dies.
LIVING WILL / HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY
These are two other indispensable documents everyone should have. By executing this document you direct all medical providers how to handle your care when you cannot speak for yourself. You can direct how much or how little extraordinary care you desire in order to attempt to prolong your life.