A “Comprehensive Estate Plan” will be different for every family. One thing is certain for all families: Planning and documenting your wishes will give your family a guide to follow. Handling this process today will prevent your loved ones from having to make very difficult decisions at a very emotional time. Lack of planning often creates arguments among family members which can be costly, can cause further grief, and can cause unnecessary government interference.
Grace St. Clair is ready to help you begin your comprehensive plan. Contact her today to discuss the following typical plans and provisions.
A Durable Power of Attorney (DPA) is a document appointing a trusted person (or persons) to act on your behalf (either temporarily while you are ill, or for an extended period of time) in the event that you are not capable of making decisions yourself. A DPA usually covers property interests such as bank accounts, mutual funds, and legal matters.
A DPA is appropriate for every adult. DPA’s can prevent uncomfortable and emotional family situations because responsibilities, and the persons responsible, are defined in advance.
An Advance Directive, also called a Living Will, is a document specifying your wishes for healthcare and artificial life support. In the Advance Direction, you will appoint an agent to make medical decisions for you should you become incapacitated, or unable to communicate. This assures that your voice is heard at a time when you cannot speak.
An Advance Directive is appropriate for every adult. It is different from a Do Not Resuscitate Directive (DNR).
The Do Not Resuscitate Directive (DNR) is often requested by hospital admitting personnel. It is a direction by the patient not to resuscitate if the patient’s heart stops. There are many things that may happen after the patient is admitted to the hospital that do not involve the unfortunate circumstance of the patient’s heart stopping. This is when a Durable Power of Attorney or Advance Directive may be effective. Very young patients may not be asked to sign a DNR, but even youth may find themselves in situations where a Durable Power of Attorney is needed.
A DNR is appropriate for those persons who would like to control whether life sustaining treatment will be initiated if their heart stops beating.
There is a new option for use by patients in terminal situations when entering the hospital. California social workers found that physicians were disconnected from their patients when they entered the hospital in their last days of life, but before an Advance Directive could be used. The POLST was created to initiate discussion between the physician and the patient upon admission to the hospital; thus creating a directive for the physician to follow based on the patient’s desired treatment.
A POLST is appropriate for terminal patients who want to communicate with their physicians about their treatment desires before they are incapacitated.
A Will is a document that will be filed in Probate Court after your death. It provides for certain property distributions to your heirs, and it may appoint guardians for your minor children. A Will does not protect you or your assets in any way while you are alive. The drawbacks are numerous. A Will will be a public document. The fees and costs for the Probate process are set by the court and can be extensive and excessive. The probate process causes long delays until final distribution of the assets can be made, and an unknown third party (the court and its appointees) will be inserted into every decision.
A Will may be appropriate for adults and families with assets under $150,000. A Will alone, however, is not enough to protect a family, as it does not provide for decisions and/or alternatives for assets while you are alive (or sick, or incapacitated). A Will should be coupled with appropriate powers of attorney (See DPA section).
A Trust is an instrument/entity frequently used in estate planning to help a person distribute property or provide for loved ones after death. A Trust is a written set of rules that will determine how, what, when, and where a gift or property is to be distributed to a family member or other beneficiary. Because a Trust is a legal entity, you must follow the rules outlined in your state to ensure that the Trust is set up correctly, managed by a reliable individual, and properly funded. It may sound inflexible, but it isn’t. A Trust provides benefits while you are alive, since it keeps your assets outside of the public eye, and it allows for an efficient distribution of your property upon death, because it does not require court supervision.
A Trust is appropriate for all adults who own real estate or who have assets over $150,000. Having a Trust will saves your family substantial time, arguments, legal fees, and unnecessary government interference.
There are many different kinds of Trusts (Revocable Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Charitable Trusts) and your estate plan may be comprised of several Trusts. Because of the variety of Trusts available, you should consult an experienced estate planning attorney for consultation and assistance establishing the Trust that best fits your family. Grace St. Clair will work with you to build a plan that meets your needs.
Grace St. Clair is a experienced in these areas and is here to help. Contact her today to get your plan in place.