Mr. Adam M Daner, Esq. of Daner Law Firm, APLC assists clients with all aspects of estate planning, and offers free initial consultations for new estate planning clients.
Estate planning helps people be sure that possessions, real estate holdings, investments and other assets are distributed according to their wishes upon their death. Certain aspects of estate planning also provide for the management of possessions and holdings during a person’s lifetime.
Estate planning also includes planning for incapacity, reducing or eliminating uncertainties of probate, and minimizing other estate liabilities.
Some of the more important estate planning documents include:
- Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD), or living will
- Guardianship for minor children, disabled or incapacitated adults
- Power or Attorney
A properly and legally documented estate not only makes sure that the estate is managed and distributed according to one’s wishes upon their death, it is also important for avoiding probate.
Probate is a court process that is activated when someone dies without a will or if the will is contested. The court evaluates the estate holdings, or the contested will, then distributes the holdings according to state law, which is not always according to the decedent’s wishes.
The will is usually the simplest device for distributing an estate upon the testator’s death. It is important that a will be written, signed, and otherwise legally validated according to state laws. However, even when everything is done correctly there are no guarantees the will won’t be contested and wind up in probate. Even when someone has a small estate it is still a good idea to have an attorney help compose and validate the will. In many cases, Attorney Daner can advise other more secure ways to transfer assets.
A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee, to hold assets on behalf of beneficiaries and that directs the distribution of those assets according to the decedent’s wishes. Trusts provide a high degree of management and control over assets and are generally not subject to probate. Trusts can be as simple as equally dividing the ownership of the family home among surviving children to a highly complex trust that manages and distributes wealth over several generations.
Advanced Health Care
The AHCD is very important for everyone, regardless of the size of one’s estate. More commonly known as a living will, the AHCD specifies what one wishes for end-of-life care or in the event of being incapacitated. The AHCD covers matters such as whether one wants artificial life sustaining medical procedures, who can make medical decisions on your behalf, who has access to medical records, who is authorized to pay medical bills and many more important matters.
When the care and guardianship of children and incapacitated and disabled adults are not specified guardianship is decided by the courts in the absence of the appropriate documentation and estate plan. The welfare of vulnerable people might not be delegated to the people the decedent wished.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) is a document used to appoint another person to manage one’s affairs. The POA can be used for a variety of circumstances and for different levels of control over one’s affairs. Before assigning power of attorney to anyone, even as part of an AHCD, it is wise to discuss the matter with an attorney.
A strong estate plan is the best way to avoid probate and make sure that one’s assets are managed and distributed according to one’s wishes. Heirs can find themselves facing probate court due to a deceased relative’s misplaced trust in others or because someone decides to dispute the will. Other factors such as creditors placing claims on an estate can drag out probate while the debt is determined to be legitimate or not. If you are facing probate, the Daner Law Firm can help you through the process by making sure you understand the process and that all the appropriate documents are filed in a timely manner.