Developing an appropriate estate plan can be a difficult and challenging task. A question we often encounter is, “How do I go about setting up my estate plan?” Generally, we will meet with clients to get an understanding of their goals, discuss the documents (e.g. a trust or a will) used to achieve that goal, and ultimately prepare the documents that accomplish the clients’ objectives. We frequently advise clients to use a three tier approach: power of attorney, advance medical directive, and a will or trust.
A power of attorney is a document that allows another to act on your behalf in the event you are unable to handle your own affairs — whether it is a result of disability or simple unavailability.
An advance medical directive is similar to a power of attorney in that it appoints another to act on your behalf, but it covers medical issues rather than business matters. It can include a living will, setting out end of life wishes.
A will is a document that you use to convey your estate upon your death. The will becomes a public document through the probate process. More information on the probate process is available in the Estate Administration (Probate) section of the website.
A trust is similar to a will. In fact, a will can have trust provisions in it. For example, you may want to defer the payment of money to your children or grandchildren. In such instances, a trustee is able to hold money on behalf of the beneficiary. Another consideration is whether assets should be left to those with disabilities (thus disqualifying them from receiving benefits). In many instances, trusts not included in wills (e.g., a revocable living trust) are not public documents and are not subject to the probate process.
Each client is unique. We are happy to discuss which documents are appropriate for your circumstances.