Will, Trusts and Estates

Creating an “estate” plan, whether just a simple will, advance healthcare directive or power of attorney, or even a complex plan involving trusts and layers to tax planning, is something that everyone who owns property and cares for others has to do at some point.  And, given the uncertainty of death and injury in life, your plan should be created sooner than later.

If just starting out, our Automated Services [link] allow you to create a basic will, healthcare directive and power of attorney with limited attorney involvement and at a reduced fee [link to page stating fees].

Planning Basics

A “simple will” should name your Executor, appoint Guardians (if you have minor children) and appoint Trustees if your will includes a trust.  A trust might be optional for a surviving spouse, but if your children are under 18, property given to them must be put into a trust.

You should also consider an Advanced Healthcare Directive allowing you to state your wishes if incapacitated due to an accident or terminal illness.  It will also appoint your Healthcare Representative and include HIPAA provisions to circumvent privacy laws.

The third document of a simple estate plan is a Power of Attorney.  If you have someone, such as a spouse, sibling, parent or significant other, who could handle your affairs if you are unable to do so, you can appoint them as your “attorney-in-fact” using a power of attorney document.  Most plans should include a “durable general” power of attorney, but there are a few other variations for specialized situations.  A power of attorney does not allow the power holder to sign a new will or make medical decisions on your behalf.

Trusts

Dictionary.com defines a “trust” as an arrangement whereby a person (a trustee) holds property as its nominal owner for the good of one or more beneficiaries.  A beneficiary might include real persons or even charitable organizations.  A trust can be irrevocable, if established at death through a will or if stated in the trust agreement.  It can also be revocable, in that the person (the Grantor) who set up the trust retains the right to cancel it at any time.  Each trust has different ownership, tax and creditor ramifications and you should research or discuss the use of trusts with your estate planning counsel.

Other Things to Consider.  While there are variations of each, the documents discussed above pretty much runs the gamut of what is needed for a good estate plan.  Even with advanced tax plans, some form of trust is used in the design.  Typically, it’s the situation or personal objectives that drives this process.

If you have a child going to or in college, you should consider some additional documents.  While your son or daughter may not need a will at this stage in life, once they reach 18, the university considers them an adult (as does the healthcare system) and privacy laws prevent them from dealing with you directly.  You might also want to consider our DocuBank Service [link to page with intro video].

DocuBank

DocuBank is an online document vault and emergency access system that protects and makes important documents available when needed.

Access is key in an emergency situation.  When you store your healthcare directives (living will, health care power of attorney) with DocuBank, you receive a personalized DocuBank Emergency Card that makes all of your emergency information and critical healthcare documents available via phone or computer.

The access card lists important medical conditions and allergy information so that they are immediately available at the hospital. The name and contact information of one emergency contact also appears on the face of the card.   And when your card is used, up to three emergency contacts, along with a physician on file, are automatically notified.

For more information, visit the DocuBank page including an introductory video.