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Wills backgroundWills and Probate

Small Estate Wills

As a practicing attorney, one of the questions I'm asked most frequently is "Do you do simple wills?" And a routine comment is, "I just want to give my wife everything I have, and she'll want to do the same, so that either one of us could continue with as little disruption as possible and take care of the kids."

Most people understand that if they don't have a valid will at the time of their death, then state law will dictate the distribution of their assets, and often not as the person would intend.

Many are hesitant to go to a lawyer's office to follow up. Two issues are usually involved: one, perceived difficulty of setting and meeting an appointment in a law office; and, two, unknown costs that must be charged in order to pay for the lawyer and staff time.

To learn more, please contact me here.

Living Will

The instrument popularly known as a Living Will is also referred to as an Advance Directive, a Directive to Physician or simply a Directive. It is a legal document designed to communicate your wishes about future medical treatment (life support, etc.) if and when you are unable to make your wishes known due to illness or injury.

To learn more, please contact me here.

Powers of Attorney

Medical Power of Attorney

The person you name in this instrument will have much broader power than the one you appointed in the Living Will (if you appointed a personal representative there). Except to the extent you state otherwise, a Medical Power of Attorney gives the person you name as your agent the authority to make any and all health care decisions for you when you are no longer capable of making them yourself. Because health care means any treatment, service or procedure to maintain, diagnose, or treat a physical or mental condition, your agent will have the authority to make a broad range of health care decisions for you.

Your agent may consent, refuse to consent, or withdraw consent to medical treatment and may make decisions about withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatment. Your agent may not consent to voluntary inpatient mental health services, convulsive treatment, psychosurgery, or abortion. A physician must comply with your agent's instructions or allow you to be transferred to another physician.

Your agent's authority begins at the time your doctor certifies that you lack the competence to make health care decisions for yourself.

To the extent you express your intentions and wishes, your agent is obligated to follow those instructions when making decisions on your behalf. So unless you state otherwise, your agent has the same authority to make decisions about your health care as you would have had.

Even after you have signed this document, you have the right to make health care decisions for yourself as long as you are able to do so and treatment cannot be given to you or stopped over your objection. You have the right to revoke the authority granted to your agent by informing your agent or your health or residential care provider orally or in writing, or by your execution of a subsequent medical power of attorney. Unless you state otherwise, the appointment of a spouse as your agent will dissolve on divorce.

You can order a Medical Power of Attorney by contacting me here. Your Medical Power of Attorney, ready for your signature, can be returned to you by mail, by email as an attachment, or should you prefer, posted to your private directory on this website.

Your responses will be held in strictest confidence.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Statutory Durable Power of Attorney is an instrument a person may use to grant an agent, known as an attorney-in-fact, powers with respect to the person's property and financial matters. It usually becomes effective when and if the grantor's physician certifies the grantor has become mentally incapable of managing his or her financial affairs, or it may become effective immediately should the grantor expressly state at the time of signing.

This kind of a power of attorney is not the same as the Medical Power of Attorney, but may be seen as a complement to a Medical Power of Attorney, as it grants the agent authority over financial matters, similar to the manner the Medical Power of Attorney grants authority over healthcare decisions.

During the process you will have the opportunity to decide, from a list, exactly which powers your Agent will have over your financial affairs.

You may revoke a Durable Power of Attorney at any time, and a form for that purpose will be included should you ever need it.

You can order a Durable Power of Attorney (for financial purposes) by contacting me here. Your Durable Power of Attorney, ready for your signature, can be returned to you by mail, by email as an attachment in the WordPerfect format, or should you request, posted to your private directory on this website.

Your responses will be held in strictest confidence.

Small Estate Plan Discount

A will, a living will, a medical power of attorney and a financial power of attorney are generally seen as the basics of an estate plan. A proper plan distributes your possessions at the time of your death according to your wishes, anticipates decisions concerning possible life support during a very difficult time near death, and appoints someone to make both medical and financial decisions should you become incapacitated at any time in the future.

Should life support be discontinued? Can your spouse or confidant access certain accounts or sell or transfer certain items if you are disabled? The plan not only puts your wishes into enforceable documentation, but it also removes from friends and loved ones the most difficult decisions at a most difficult time.

A single person can purchase a small estate plan package for one hundred sixty-five dollars ($165.00), and a couple can obtain the package for two hundred fifty dollars ($250). To take advantage of these discounts, please return to the home page by pressing the button below, provide the information for each of the four categories, and merely submit the package costs instead of paying the individual prices.

To learn more, please contact me here.

Other Wills and Trusts

Simple wills, living wills, and the appointment of agents for future medical and financial purposes are the basics of small estate planning. Other instruments and devices exist which might be more suitable for your particular circumstance.

Small Estate Will with a Trust

For instance, if you have what you consider to be a "nest egg" that you've saved for your family, you may want to consider creating the Small Estate Will, but adding a simple trust. Under the terms of the trust, your estate's assets could be protected until your children are old enough (21, 25, 27) to handle funds or property on their own. Under the Small Estate Will alone, and even if you have appointed a guardian, the guardian's duties usually end by operation of law when the child becomes eighteen.

Will with a Bypass Trust

If you have what you consider to be an estate of significant size and value, I recommend you and your spouse consider an inventory of your assets and possibly a bypass trust to help minimize estate taxes and other seldom-desired consequences.

A Living Trust

The perceived difficulties associated with the probate process is one of the primary driving forces supporting this method of estate planning. Most often you name yourself the initial trustee and have the distinctive advantage of carrying out your own wishes. This also reduces the chances that some potential heir may contest its provisions since it is created during your lifetime while you are still around to defend your plan.

A properly executed Living Trust can prevent your estate from undergoing public scrutiny as well as the perceived difficulties often associated with detailed proceedings in a Probate Court as mentioned above. This is a more complex estate planning device which requires a measure of discipline on your part, or else assets not properly introduced into the trust will be subjected to the probate process, thus at least partially negating your intentions as they pertain to avoidance of probate. The instrument is comprehensive and also provides for trust-based control of your assets should you become disabled, as well as providing for successor trustees to manage the trust or distribute the assets in the future.

...and more

There are pourover wills (a will that pours your assets over into a trust that has been created during your lifetime) , life insurance trusts (designed to minimize both estate and income taxes); personal residence trusts; and other estate planning devices which may assist you in obtaining the goals you would like to attain regarding the future of your estate. If you have legitimate questions about any of these matters, please contact me here. You must include your full name, address and telephone numbers to get a reply. Such an exchange is for informational purposes only, and is neither intended to establish the lawyer-client relationship nor as an offer of legal advice.