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Last Will and Testament

Who should receive your property upon your passing? A Last Will and Testament is an estate planning document that allows one to provide instructions to his or her executor as to how to distribute the his or her property upon death. Wills come in a variety of shapes and forms and must be designed with the individual’s needs in mind. For this reason, one should seek sound legal advice before deciding which will is appropriate. Using the wrong kind of will can result in problems during probate.

Living Trust

Can you save money on attorney’s fees and costs? A Living Trust (a.k.a. Revocable Living Trust) is an estate planning tool that holds the one's assets allowing him or her to control the assets as the trustee of the trust. In using a living trust, the creator (settlor) names a successor trustee to distribute the living trust's real and personal property upon the settlor's passing according to the terms of the living trust's  instructions. Assets held in a living trust do not require a probate in order to be transferred to beneficiaries. Because probate is not required, living trusts can greatly reduce future legal expenses.

Financial Power of Attorney

Who controls your finances in case of an emergency? A Financial Power of Attorney allows one (the principal) to appoint an agent to make financial decisions for principal the upon incapacitation. Incapacity can be temporary or permanent. Using a Financial Power of Attorney allows the principal’s agent to access financial accounts, pay bills, and use the principal’s money for his or her benefit during the principal's incapacitation. Without a Financial Power of Attorney, one's relatives must file for a conservatorship of the estate in order to control the individual’s finances. This can result in legal costs and delays in accessing assets and paying liabilities.

Advance Health Care Directive

Who will make medical decisions for you in case of an emergency? Similar to a Financial Power of Attorney, an Advance Health Care Directive allows the creator (the principal) to appoint an agent to make health care decisions for the individual in the event of incapacitation. An Advance Health Care Directive provides the agent with the ability to make decisions regarding medical treatment, allows the agent the ability to receive medical information from health care providers, and make end-of-life decisions for the incapacitated principal, if such a situation were to arise. Creating an Advance Health Care Directive provides instructions to the agent whether to keep the principal on life support or remove him or her from life support. Without an Advance Health Care Directive, one’s family may have to file for a conservatorship of the person to obtain legal authority to make these important decisions.

Guardianship Designation

Who will take care of a minor child if you pass away? Guardianship provisions allow a parent of minor children to designate a guardian of his or her minor children at the parent’s passing. These designations provide the court with one’s wishes as to who should be legal responsible for the minors. Without stating one’s wishes, courts are left to make the decision. With guardianship designations, courts generally appoint the designated guardian unless good cause exists to deny the nomination. Such grounds for denial can include financial irresponsibility, criminal convictions, and history of substance abuse or physical abuse of others.

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