What is in an Estate Plan? Inquiring minds want to know.
To recap, an estate plan makes sure that your wishes about your life and your stuff are met, during life and death. But what exactly is an estate plan?
You may have heard of a will or a trust in television shows and movies, especially after a character dies and the entire family fights over what they are getting from the estate. You may have also heard of a will in light of recent celebrities like Aretha Franklin or Prince who both passed without having a will or trust in place. These documents are the foundations of an estate plan, but there is more to an estate plan than just a will or trust.
What an Estate Plan Includes
Each estate plan includes a will, a General Durable Power of Attorney (GDPA), a Healthcare Power of Attorney, HIPAA release, and Consent of Digital Assets, among other essential documents that ensure not only your property and assets are taken care of, but you and your family are taken care of as well. Each document is created between the client and their attorney to meet the specific needs and wishes of the client.
The Will is probably the most recognizable document of those discussed above as it identifies your intentions after your death. A Will lists your Personal Representative (executor)- the person in charge of managing your estate in Probate Court. This includes what happens to the money and assets left in your estate.
But what a trust does not do is keep your assets and family out of probate court when you die. Instead a Will informs the probate court of your intentions, as a will is only for probate court having no value outside of an open probate case. If you want to protect your family and assets from the costliness and publicity of probate court you need more than a will. That’s where a trust matters.
A trust is often a better choice for people wanting their family and assets to be managed without local court involvement. Trusts are not solely for married or wealthy individuals. At its core, a trust is designed for anyone wanting their family and assets managed and administered outside of the court process. Since nearly everyone prefers to avoid probate court, a trust should always be considered and evaluated as a potential option for your plan.
General Durable Power of Attorney
What happens if you cannot make decisions for yourself when you are alive? If you have a General Durable Power of Attorney (GDPA), Healthcare Power of Attorney, and HIPAA release, everything will happen according to your wishes. These documents give the person(s), also known as your agent(s) the ability to handle your financial affairs if you happen to be incapacitated (GDPA), and to gather your health information and make your health decisions if you can’t make them yourself (Healthcare Powers of Attorney and HIPAA release). In these documents you are able to decide what kind of power you want your agents to have while acting on your behalf.
You may be thinking, “I already have all these documents!” That’s great! You are ahead of most already. Please keep in mind, however, that it is critical to review your trust yearly so you can make sure it still complies with the estate laws of your state along with your personal wishes, and that it is adjusted for any life changes you may have.
If you need a will or trust, it is important that you have an attorney that specializes in this type of work to assist you in creating your documents. Some people point to online resources for this kind of document creation, however, there are many pitfalls in using online sources. These are discussed in the articles here and here. Be sure to hire an attorney that specializes in estate planning, wills, and trusts, like the attorneys at The TGQ Law Firm so you can be sure that you are getting exactly what you need.