REDINGER LAW OFFICES, PLLC
Denise Redinger ♦ Laura Blair-Gano
ATTORNEYS AND COUNSELORS AT LAW
Preparing for as many possible outcomes as possible is the key to successful estate planning. While many of us are aware of a need to convey our intentions for our assets after death, it can be difficult to envision all of the scenarios that may arise. Part of this process is going through an exhaustive “what if?” line of questioning. When developing your estate plans, we make this process exploratory and dynamic, bringing important legal and fiscal considerations to the conversation.
We specialize in forming estate plans catered to the unique needs of every family. For example, families that would like to leave assets to a special needs loved one should be aware of the way in which inheritances can affect important government benefits for the disabled person (for more information, see our Special Needs Trust page). Our attorneys practice in all aspects of estate and gift planning and speak regularly on the complex issues that arise in these areas.
A clear and specific estate plan eases the burden of your Personal Representatives during the probate process. In general, an estate plan can encompass several different documents that detail your intentions regarding asset distribution, guardianship for minor children and directions to your loved ones in the event that you become incapacitated. These documents could include:
Trusts & Special Needs Trusts
Trusts are a method of transferring property; they serve many purposes and can be created for many reasons. In some cases, they are created to hold property or assets for a minor child beneficiary until they reach a certain age. Similarly, Special Needs Trusts protect assets intended for a beneficiary with special needs so that they can continue to receive important government benefits such as Medicaid and SSI. Trusts can also be used to avoid probate.
In all trusts, assets are transferred from the trustor (i.e. you) to a trustee (such as a bank) for the benefit of a chosen beneficiary. The trustee administers the property to the beneficiary under the terms specified in the trust agreement. While a trust may be one part of a comprehensive estate planning package, they are just as often commissioned as a standalone document. If you think you may be in need of a trust, call us for a free 10-minute consult to discuss your specific needs.
Wills & Codicils:
A will is a legal declaration by which you, the testator, assign the management of your estate to one or more persons (your Personal Representatives) and indicate your intentions for the distribution of your real and personal property.
A will can also specify the way in which any debts and taxes will be paid upon your death and can bequeath specific items of tangible personal property to your beneficiaries.
As your assets and family change over time, you may need to update your will. In some cases this can be done with a codicil rather than completely re-writing a new will. If you are unsure about your estate needs, please contact our office: in many cases we can review your current estate documents free of charge to help you determine if an update is needed at all.
Durable Powers of Attorney:
A durable power of attorney (DPOA) allows you to bestow specific powers to a designated person known as an attorney-in-fact. The powers granted to your attorney-in-fact can be as broad or limited as you wish, and these restrictions are outlined clearly in your DPOA. In most cases, we draft two DPOA’s: One for health care, and another for finances. These documents allow the individuals you designate to make important health care, financial and other decisions for you in the event you are unwilling or unable to do so yourself. Unless you are deemed incapacitated, you have the authority to revoke your DPOA at any time.
Health Care Directives or Living Wills
In the event that you can no longer make decisions due to illness, incapacity or an inability to communicate your intent for your own health care, a Health Care Directive – also known as a Living Will – specifies the actions that should be taken for your own health.
Health Care Directives essentially encompass your end-of-life decisions. They often describe the circumstances under which you which you wish to be withheld life support (commonly called “Do Not Resuscitate” orders). Unlike a DPOA, you are not transferring the right to make these decisions to another person. Instead, you are stating your wishes now in the event a circumstance arrives in which you cannot speak them for yourself. For this reason, this document is also sometimes called an “advance directive”, because you are directing your loved ones and health care providers of these wishes in advance of their necessity.