Estate Planning

How is my Estate Plan important to me while I am still alive? An Estate Plan is at least as important while you are still alive as it is after your death. Three important documents can be critical while you are alive: Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, and Living Will.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney, and why do I need one? A Durable Power of Attorney is one of the most important documents in your Estate Plan. This document names the person that you want to handle all of your financial affairs if you are unable to do so. You have the choice to designate that person immediately or only on your disability. This document gives the person nearly total control over your finances and property, making it critical to appoint someone in whom you have total trust.

Why do I need both a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Living Will? If you cannot communicate your medical wishes because of illness or injury, your Health Care Power of Attorney will do so. Your Living Will explains your advance, end-of-life wishes so that your Health Care Power of Attorney and your doctors can make decisions to honor your wishes.

What is the difference between a Will and Living Trust? Wills and Living Trusts both govern how a person’s property will pass after their death. The main difference is that, with a Will, the administration will take place in a probate action and, with a Living Trust, the administration will occur without court oversight, unless a dispute arises. 

What is the difference between a Will and Living Will? Wills and Living Wills are two entirely different types of documents. 

A Living Will is used while a person is alive but is unable to convey his or her wishes regarding medical care. The Living Will gives guidance to doctors and to the person named as the Health Care Power of Attorney with regard to end-of-life issues. 

A Will comes into play after a person dies. Most notably, it tells the Personal Representative how to distribute the decedent’s assets.

What is a Last Separate Writing? A Last Separate Writing directs your Personal Representative to give specific items of personal property to named individuals. This includes items like jewelry, furniture, art, china, silverware, collectibles and so forth. The person preparing a Last Separate Writing will list a primary beneficiary and a secondary beneficiary. A Last Separate Writing avoids the need to list this information in a Will, and the list is easily updated without having to formally change the Will.

Can I change my Will once I’ve signed it? Yes. You can either have an entirely new Will prepared, or you can change certain provisions with a Codicil, a document that amends, rather than replaces, a previously executed Will.