A lot of people do not understand why they need to consider working with an estate planning lawyer because they think it is a very simple matter. You draw up a will, and you have taken care of the responsibility, end of story.
If you embrace this line of thinking, you are making a mistake because a well-constructed estate plan will be broader in scope.
Simple Will Alternatives
Obviously, your estate plan will be built around a document that is used to facilitate postmortem asset transfers, but it doesn’t have to be a will. In fact, a revocable living trust is a better choice for many people.
A will would be admitted to probate, and inheritances would be distributed about nine months after your passing (at minimum) because of the procedural hurdles. You would be providing lump sums with no asset protection when you have a will, and this may be less than ideal.
If you use a living trust, you would act as the trustee while you are alive, and you would have access to the resources. After your death, the successor trustee that you designate would distribute the inheritances to your loved ones outside of probate.
You can set up an incremental distribution schedule if you do not want the beneficiaries to receive all of their inheritances at one time. This is the trust that is best for the widest range of people, but there are other trusts that satisfy certain specific objectives.
Letter of Last Instruction
The executor or trustee that is going to act as the administrator of your estate will need a great deal of information to complete their tasks. You can share the information in a letter of last instruction.
It can include the contact information of people that should be notified about your passing, and you should provide the location of relevant hardcopy documents. Keys and entry codes should be addressed, along with login information for online accounts.
You can also let the administrator know if you have made any final arrangements in advance. These are some general guidelines, but you simply apply common sense when you compose the letter.
Health Care Directives
Would you want to be kept alive indefinitely through the use of life-support methods of you were in a terminal condition with no hope of recovery? Do you think it’s fair to ask someone else make the decision on your behalf?
You can seize control in advance and assert your wishes in no uncertain terms if you include a living will in your estate plan. When you create the document, you can address each different type of life-support if you choose to do so, and you can make organ and tissue donation choices.
Medical scenarios that involve decision-making can arise that are not related to life-support when you are unable to communicate. To account for this possibility, you can name a representative in a durable power of attorney for health care.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was enacted to protect the privacy of patients. Doctors would not be able to discuss your condition with your representative unless you have signed a HIPAA release, so this is another document that should be included in the plan.
Durable Power of Attorney for Property
Over 30 percent of people that are 85 years of age and older contract Alzheimer’s disease, and this is not the only cause of cognitive impairment. Interested parties could petition the state to appoint a conservator to act on your behalf if you do nothing to prepare for this eventuality.
You can prevent this outcome and designate a hand-picked decision maker if you execute a durable power of attorney for property. If you have a living trust, you could give the successor trustee or anyone that you choose the ability to act as a disability trustee in the event of your incapacity.
We Are Here to Help!
When you work with our firm, we will put you at ease, gain an understanding of your situation, and make recommendations. At the end of the process, you will go forward with a custom crafted plan that ideally suits your needs.
You can schedule a consultation at our Los Angeles estate planning office if you call us at 310-337-7697, and you can use our contact form to send us a message.