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Estate Planning

 

Estate Planning enables a person to control what happens to their assets at the end of his or her life. A will is the most basic estate planning tool, and is used to direct the distribution of the decedent’s estate. Other tools, such as trusts, may be useful, depending on the size of the person’s estate and whether there are dependent or disabled loved ones in the picture. Depending on your goals, your Estate Plan may allow your estate to avoid probate entirely.

 

Equally as important as Estate Planning is making sure you have properly executed Advance Directives. Advance Directives are documents that inform your family and loved ones, as well as health care professionals, of your wishes relating to financial, legal, and health related issues.

 

Five Important Advance Directives

  1. Financial Power of Attorney ("POA") - A Financial Power of Attorney appoints an agent and empowers that person to handle all of your financial affairs. A Financial Power of Attorney can be immediately active or it can be springing, meaning that your designated agent can only act after two physicians agree that you do not have the capacity to manage your own affairs.

  2. Health Care Power of Attorney ("HCPOA") - A Health Care Power of Attorney appoints an agent and empowers that person to make important decisions about your medical treatment if you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to make such decisions.

  3. Natural Death Act - Living Wills - A Living Will instructs your doctor as to your wishes about extending your life or, in the alternative, withholding extraordinary measures and/or artificial nutrition and hydration when you are terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state.

  4. Do Not Resuscitate ("DNR") - A Do Not Resuscitate directive is a request that your doctor not perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops or if you stop breathing.

  5. Palliative/Comfort Care - Authorizes a comfort response to medical decline.

 

Selecting A Financial Agent (Attorney-In-Fact)

The single most important factor in designating an agent is to choose someone that you trust. Sometimes family members are a great choice, but not always. You might consider selecting any of the following:

  • Spouse

  • Children

  • Best Friends

  • Friends of Faith

  • Professionals providing services, specifically Bank Trust Departments and Non-Profit groups