Understanding Estate Planning Documents

Understanding Estate Planning DocumentsWhat is estate planning?

Estate planning includes designing a plan which provides for the disposition of assets upon your death.  The issues to be addressed are: who will receive your assets and when, who will handle the distribution of the assets and how this can all be accomplished at the least possible cost, and with the minimum amount of taxation.  A comprehensive estate plan will also provide for administration and protection of assets during your lifetime and will provide for decision making in the event of your incapacity. 

What is a will?

A Will is a legal document which becomes effective only upon the death of the person who created the will.  The Will sets forth who will be the beneficiary and what share of the estate they will receive.  When drafting a will, you will be asked to choose an individual, called an executor or executrix (if female), who will carry out your wishes as dictated in your will. Trusts may be established within the Will.  It is very important to follow all legal requirements of the state in which it is executed when setting up and signing the Will.

While wills are valuable tools for any individual, they are especially beneficial when it comes to, protecting your children, safeguarding those with special needs, and guaranteeing the continuance of your non-profit distributions.

What is trust?

A trust is basically an agreement between you (the grantor or trustor) and a trustee (which can be either an individual or an entity) which is made during your lifetime.  The trust agreement determines how assets placed in the trust will be managed and distributed. There are a variety of reasons that people establish trusts such as asset management, asset protection or to minimize the estate tax.

A common trust is a Revocable Living Trust which is a “will substitute.”  It appoints another person, a trustee, to manage the assets set aside in the trust. Trustees can be an individual or an organization. A revocable trust will not protect assets from a nursing home or other long term care needs. It contains provisions regarding asset management and disposition of assets upon death. Another type of trust is a testamentary trust which is a trust which is funded only upon an individual’s death.  You may have read about life insurance trusts as well.  This is a technique used to provide estate tax savings.  A special needs trust is a Trust that is designed to provide funds to the beneficiary in such a way that the individual remains eligible for public assistance programs.  There are many different types of trusts for different purposes depending upon your need and goals.

Some other types of trusts include; an Express Trust, Minors Trust, Income Only Trust, Special Needs’ Trusts, A Dynasty Trust (a.k.a. Generation Skipping Trust), Standby Trust (a.k.a. Pourover Trust), Protective Trust, and Credit Shelter Trust (a.k.a. Bypass Trust).

What is the difference between a Revocable and Irrevocable Trust? A revocable trust is a trust that can be modified, altered, or canceled by the grantor.  The grantor holds certain powers that cause inclusion of the trust in the estate of the individual. An irrevocable trust is a trust where the grantor relinquishes control of the trust and allows the trustee to control the trust assets.  This type of trust, depending on how it is structured, may cause the assets of the grantor to be excluded for estate purposes.

What is a General Durable Power of Attorney?

A General Durable Power of Attorney is a written document whereby you authorize someone to act on your behalf as it relates to finances and/or other decisions.  A General Power of Attorney allows the individual to make financial decisions on your behalf within the parameters of the powers enumerated in the Power of Attorney.  A Durable Power of Attorney remains effective after the onset of a disability.

What are advance directives?

Any written instructions, recognized by the laws of the state in which you live (usually a Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney) which appoints an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf.  The document may also describe the types of health care the individual wants or does not want if he or she is not able to make health care decisions. 

What is a HIPAA Document?  The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule regulates the use and disclosure of Protected Health Information (PHI) held by “covered entities” (generally, health care clearinghouses, employer sponsored health plans, health insurers, and medical service providers that engage in certain transactions.). This document will allow those you authorize to be able to speak to your physicians and other health care professionals about your health care issues.

To learn more about estate planning for your family and ensure that your wishes are carried out, call 856-857-6007 to make an appointment with the skilled lawyers at Bratton Law.