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Essential Estate Planning: Protecting Your Family’s Future

There are various estate planning tools that can effectively distribute your possessions the way you wish, help you avoid taxes, and handle other aspects related to your final arrangements. In addition, there are other documents that can help you put your healthcare wishes into writing so there is no mistake about what you want in the event of a personal disaster.

The fact that you are reading this means that you care about getting your affairs in order. So please keep reading and act upon what you read. As a law firm and business, we would be happy to handle your estate planning matters for you. This page will explain a few basics about some estate planning documents, but the heart of the information is contained in the specific pages.

Revocable Living Trust

A Living Trust distributes property much the same way a Will does, but it accomplishes the distribution without probate court supervision or interference. Instead, a less expensive, less time-consuming, private process is used. The only technical difference is that the title to the property is in the name of the Living Trust, and you, or you and your spouse, are the trustees. Because the property is not technically in your name when you pass on, it does not have to go through probate. Many Living Trusts also incorporate credit shelter provisions to maximize tax savings for your heirs.

Privacy is another benefit often cited by Revocable Living Trust users. When a person passes on, his or her Will becomes a public document accessible to anyone. Any salesman may go into the probate court, see what your estate was worth and which heirs received an inheritance, what their addresses are, and begin soliciting them. A Living Trust may never be seen by anyone other than the trustee(s). According to statistics, Wills are also far more likely to be successfully challenged than Living Trusts.

Our firm strongly believes that in cases where people have a primary goal of avoiding hassles for their heirs, then they should use a revocable living trust to distribute even a modest estate. Many other attorneys recommend using a Will instead because they either do not fully understand the advantages a living trust provides. For a specific recommendation on your situation, please call to schedule a free initial consultation with the office or

Last Will and Testament

A Will is the most common document used for giving away possessions after death. This writing instructs a probate court on distributing your assets after all of your bills are paid. Which heirs get which items or what percentage of the estate, when it goes to them, and how taxes are handled are explained in a properly drafted Will. It can also include legally binding instructions on the desired type of funeral service and burial you want, list the people you want to administer your estate, name those you want to take custody of minor children and outline any age restrictions on the people receiving bequests.

Overall, a Will is better than nothing, but it is not nearly as versatile as a Living Trust. In addition to handling the distribution of your property, a Will can also save money on estate taxes, keep money in trust for young beneficiaries, and provide guardianship nominations.

Living Will

A Living Will orders a doctor to use or not to use extreme life-saving measures, such as life-support if you are in an irrecoverable coma or in a “persistent vegetative state.” In a typical Living Will, doctors are ordered either to withhold or administer life support and artificial nutrition. Because the Living Will was drafted, signed and notarized while the patient was conscious and of sound mind, doctors must follow the directives of a Living Will document. This not only allows you to make these important decisions ahead of time, but it also removes the burden of these difficult decisions from loved ones.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

A Healthcare Power of Attorney empowers someone else to make health decisions about treatment if you are incapacitated. This document covers instances where you are unconscious and a decision is needed regarding surgery or other treatment. Healthcare Power of Attorney documents complement Living Wills in making sure your healthcare decisions are made by specific people you choose, in order, so doctors have specific people to turn to for a decision, but that final decision of withholding or giving life support is made by you in advance.

Far too many times a doctor is stuck waiting for the closest living family members to agree on a decision. The patient may also not want that person to be making such decisions but never bothered to put this in writing. A wife may consider her husband too emotional and unable to make such decisions, so she would prefer her brother make these decisions. Or a husband may trust his wife’s judgment but would want a friend to make healthcare decisions if the wife is unavailable rather than his own mother. A Healthcare Power of Attorney can prevent decision problems before they come up.

Financial Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney empowers someone else to handle financial and legal affairs for you while you are competent, after you become incompetent, or both. In many instances, these documents are used by married couples as a matter of convenience so that one spouse can close on a new home, change banking information, or many other matters. In other cases, it is essential for an elderly parent to give this power to a child to handle their affairs if they are losing competency or for non-married couples to handle routine affairs for the household.

Special Needs Clients

Parents of special needs children frequently go through life tackling difficult problems, handling each task “one day at a time.” However well-meaning the theory of taking things “one day at a time” is, it means most people focus solely on the present and they fail to plan for the future. Unfortunately, many parents of special needs children handle things one day at a time and fail to take the necessary steps to provide for their children after they are gone.

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