Estate Planning, Wills & Probate
The foundation of any well-developed estate plan is the
preparation and execution of testamentary documents
that carry out the wishes of the testator while providing
the most beneficial characteristics for estate tax purposes.
These documents not only control the disposition of the
estate upon death, but also provide assistance during your
lifetime by appointing agents to act on your behalf during different life events. Our attorneys provide counsel during all phases of the estate planning process, including this initial phase planning, which includes the preparation of Wills, revocable living trusts, Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, HIPAA Authorization Forms, Living Wills, Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains, and Organ Donor Cards.
Estate planning is not just for the rich, it is for everyone. All of your possessions, including cars, bank accounts, personal property, real estate, etc. are part of your personal estate. We provide a full range of estate planning services utilizing an assortment of sophisticated estate planning techniques to help clients maximize estate tax savings and provide an efficient means of transferring wealth to future generations. All of our clients' estates, large or modest, are unique and important to us, and we take a customized approach to formulate a personalized estate plan that fits their needs and meets their goals.
There is a court supervised process for the final disposition of a person's possessions called probate. A decedent's estate is inventoried, outstanding debts are paid, and beneficiaries of the estate are verified. Then the net assets from the estate are distributed. Many people pass away "intestate," meaning without a will. In those cases, the probate court appoints someone to decide how to distribute the cash, assets, and other property. Even those with a will come under probate court jurisdiction and have their inventory and distribution overseen by the probate court.
Last Will and Testament
You don't want to have your loved ones fighting over your assets once you are gone, and you want to make sure that certain people receive certain assets. Preparing and maintaining a proper will helps to ensure that those you have chosen to receive your assets actually do. Your will is a legal document that provides instructions for how all of your possessions are distributed after your death. An executor who you have named files a death certificate and petitions the probate court to begin the probate process. Your executor is authorized to make decisions with court oversight and distribute assets according to your wishes as you have laid them out in the terms of your will.
A living trust is an alternative to a will with a major advantage of avoiding lengthy and expensive probate processes. By establishing a living trust, the property you identify will transfer into a trust during your lifetime. Then, after your death, ownership of the property is passed on by a trustee to your beneficiaries. The living trust permits the transfer of your possessions to beneficiaries without the need for lawyer's fees or court filings. This allows your assets to avoid going through probate and will likely help save your beneficiaries significant time and taxes. We will review your specific situation to determine if a trust is right for your circumstances and if so, we will prepare the trust documents to meet your objectives.
Medical Powers of Attorney
The law requires a specific power of attorney for a person to make medical decisions on your behalf, a statutory power of attorney will not suffice. Without a medical power of attorney, should you be unable to make decisions for yourself, you might be leaving those decisions to someone you don't want to. We can ensure that your have a proper medical power of attorney in place, giving authority to the person you have chosen, so that they can make medical decisions on your behalf, in the even you become incapacitated or unable to make those decisions for yourself.
Advanced Health Care Directives (Living Will)
You have a right to determine the type of care and treatment you want medical professionals to follow, should you need them. In the event you are unable to communicate those wishes, your loved ones and doctors might not know what they are. An advanced health care directive, often called a "living will," is a legal directive that allows your wishes to determine your end of life care. It enables you to issue "do not resuscitate (DNR)" orders to physicians in circumstances where the physician believes there no hope that you can ever return to independent living.
Durable Powers of Attorney
If you become incapacitated or are going to be away for a time and unable to take care of your personal business, a power of attorney names an appointee who can take care of those things for you. It grants the named individual authority to make decisions and transactions including real estate, banking, personal property, insurance, investments and may other powers to handle your necessary business.