As part of our general practice, we counsel clients regarding their estate planning needs and prepare wills, powers of attorney, living wills (also known as advance medical directives), revocable living trusts, life insurance trusts, and other basic tax-planned estate planning documents.
For the typical person or couple, basic estate planning consists of the drafting of a will, a durable power of attorney, and an advanced medical directive (living will). For those with a more complex estate, or assets in other states (such as real estate), or for those who desire to maintain control or restrict the distribution of assets to their beneficiaries (and save money by avoiding probate), we generally recommend and prepare revocable living trusts.
A will is written instrument by which one specifies the distribution of his or her property at death and names an executor to handle the estate upon death. A power of attorney is a document authorized by a person, called the “principal,” that grants legal authority to another person, the “agent,” to act on behalf of the principal. A power of attorney could authorize the agent to write checks, sell property, file tax returns, etc. Under a “durable” power of attorney, the principal authorizes the agent to make decision on his or her behalf in the event the principal is incapacitated. These actions of the agent may be authorized under all circumstances (a general power) or under specific circumstances (a limited power).
A will takes care of post-death distribution and matters, whereas a power of attorney provides for certain actions during one’s lifetime or one’s legal incompetency. Lastly, an advance medical directive, also known as a living will is a written instrument by which one declares certain preferences regarding their medical care and natural death. In this regard, one can choose to vest that power of decision in a third party or reserve it unto oneself.
Because of the great deal of literature and discussion on the subject and the many benefits they provide, people will often consider creating a revocable living trust.