What Are The Basic Items Of An Estate Plan?
A basic estate plan has four documents: a Will, a Power of Attorney, a Living Will, and a Healthcare Surrogate. The Will is the document that lists the name of the personal representative and beneficiaries, and is applied when the person dies. During the life of the individual, there is no limit to how many times the Will can be changed. The Will is also the last document that is needed before someone dies because it provides direction on how to resolve their assets.
A Power of Attorney is sometimes the most important document because it is valid while a person is still alive and ceases once the person dies. The nickname I’ve assigned to the power of attorney is “power of administrator”, because it’s less misleading in that the document has little to do with attorneys and mostly involves having someone administer assets for the person with the document called Power of Attorney. It is most appropriate to have a trusted family member receive this level of authority.
A Healthcare Surrogate is similar to a power of attorney with the exception that it applies to medical issues. It is sometimes appropriate to have different people named as the healthcare surrogate and power of attorney. The healthcare surrogate will make medical decisions and instruct physicians on behalf of the incapacitated person.
The final document is the Living Will but has nothing to do with the Will and little to do with living. Rather, it provides instruction to doctors and family members about end-of-life care so that a person’s wishes can be fulfilled. In other words, it states whether someone would want medical care to be continued or stopped under certain conditions, and is something that should be contemplated before someone becomes sick.
How Long Does It Typically Take To Create A Basic Estate Plan From Start To Finish?
We can work very quickly and efficiently. During my first meeting with a client, we will talk for about 30 minutes and get everything organized, and they will return to sign the prepared documents a week later. At that point, they will have created a basic estate plan. Some issues are more complicated and will require additional research or information, but most people only have to make two visits to their lawyer’s office before the process is complete.
What Makes You Particularly Suited To Handle Estate Planning For Your Clients?
I enjoy meeting with people, discussing options, and explaining how the various documents work together. I’ve created many estate planning packages for people over the years and many people have said that they are relieved when they have finally done an estate plan that they have put off a long time.
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