Wills, Trusts, & Power of Attorney
Planning who will control your future health care decisions and who will handle your financial matters is extremely important, as well as planning the distribution of your assets upon death. There is no need to put if off any longer. We have an easy process to complete all necessary documents. When done, you will have a binder complete with all of the following:
- Your Will
- Your Power of Attorney for Finances document
- Your Power of Attorney for Health Care (includes Living Will)
- Children’s Trust (optional), and…
- A handy resource for coordinating a financial summary for your estate and a worksheet for distribution of your personal effects.
A Revocable Living Trust may also be recommended in estates valued over a million dollars or other special financial or family circumstances. The above documents would still be required.
Our attorney fees are reasonable, starting at $400 for a simple will package for single person which includes your Will, Power of Attorney for Finances, and Power of Attorney for Health Care. If you are not sure if you need a Will, Trust, or other documents, use our Will Questionnaire to get started, then contact our offices for an appointment.
Does having a Will avoid probate? No. A Will instructs how your assets are to be divided. You can avoid probate by creating a trust, or by listing beneficiaries, and noting transfer on death (TOD) designations on bank accounts, and TOD on real estate (new since 2006). Preplanning is key! The above noted power of attorney forms are still necessary, even in small estates, as they direct your wishes while you are still alive, and avoid a guardianship action, which can be costly and a burden on loved-ones.
When is a Guardianship necessary? When an adult is no longer able to make decisions for him or herself, and he or she does NOT have power of attorney documents. Power of attorney documents designate who can sign on their behalf – for medical or financial (separate documents). Guardianship is a formal court proceeding that requires many steps and at least one court hearing. Guardianship is also necessary when a disabled child is close to reaching the age of majority (18). Prior to that time, the parents can sign for medical treatment and such. After age 18, parents need to be appointed legal guardian. Another type of guardianship is for a minor child, if his or her parents are deceased or not able to care for the child. We can assist with all types of guardianship, and help you plan to avoid a guardianship action
Power of Attorney documents Power of attorney documents are effective only while a person is alive. They CEASE to be effective upon that person’s death. There is NO grace period. The powers terminate immediately upon death. Power of attorney agents are often confused by this since they may have been handling financial affairs for years and don’t understand why death changes things. Simply put, it does. Upon death, the Will takes over (probate court) or the Trust (if the decedent has one), or the TOD designations noted above (if done before death). Preplanning is key to ensuring a smooth transition after death, as well as before.
Children’s Trust – essential A Children’s Trust is a smaller version of the large Revocable Living Trust. A children’s trust can be an additional piece to a Will package, which allows all assets passing to your children to be managed under one umbrella (trust). You can then designate ages the children will receive distributions, or set limitations on the type or timing of distributions to them. This is essential as most parents realize that their children may not be ready to handle a large sum of money at age 18 and, rather, the children’s trust can hold that off to age 25, 30, or whatever age or rules you set. Remember, you may not have a large cash estate at this time, but upon death, even in the near future, your children will, as they will receive your life insurance policies, retirement, home, investments, etc. The largest of these may be the insurance and retirement which you do not have access to, but they would upon death. Using the Children’s Trust as a planning tool to help your children manage those funds responsibly is one of the most important parental obligations you have. Purchasing life insurance sounds responsible, but if you do not add this planning tool, your children generally will NOT have access to those funds at all, until they turn 18, and then they receive the whole sum outright – no strings attached. Having this additional piece of protection not only protects your children before age 18, but also after.