THE BASICS OF ESTATE PLANNING
- YOUR WILL: Your will tells the court where your property should go upon your death. It appoints a personal representative (sometimes called administrator or executor) to be “in charge” of the court process and the distribution. If you own property on your death which is subject to the probate rules (over $20,000 in assets or any real estate) your Will must be admitted to probate after your death.
- GUARDIANSHIP NOMINATIONS FOR MINORS: Can be done within a will, and most commonly is included as a paragraph in your will.
- CONTINGENT TRUSTS FOR MINORS: Absent making arrangements to the contrary, the court would require a guardianship for minor children and assets would pass directly to the children upon age 18. Most families include in wills “contingent trusts” requiring assets to be held in trust by a Trustee (can be a family member) until the children reach specified ages, e.g. 21 or 25.
- REVOCABLE LIVING TRUSTS: These are commonly used to avoid a probate proceeding, while serving to pass assets to your heirs in a similar manner as a Will. People establish these trusts during their lives, and if property established, can be a very sound tool for avoiding the estate administration process.
- POWER OF ATTORNEY: A power of attorney is very important. It permits another person to handle your business affairs. Absent a power of attorney, a court ordered conservatorship or guardianship is likely.
- HEALTH CARE DECLARATION: A health care declaration, formerly called a “living will” contains two parts. First, you name a “health care agent” or “health care power of attorney” who is able to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate with your health care professionals. Second, the health care directly allows you to describe the types of care and treatment you would, or would not, want in a number of circumstances. This form also permits you to designate whether or not you would like to be an organ donor, and also addresses issues of burial/cremation.
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