OVERVIEW OF ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS
Wills—bequeaths property as you decide rather than the State.
Distributes property in accordance with your directives. Without a Will, a Probate Court will distribute your property according to the rules of descent.
A separate list of personal property can be included that designates heirlooms and keepsakes to specified individuals, thereby avoiding family infighting.
If parents still have minor children, they designate the Guardian of their children rather than leaving it to a probate judge to make that decision. A trust can be created with a family Will, which will safeguard funds for surviving children.
Revocable Trust—avoids delays, costs and attorneys fees of probate court
An individual or spouses (called the Grantor(s) transfer property to the Trust (the Trust can be revoked at any time prior to death, hence revocable).
Individuals name themselves as Trustee thereby retaining control of their assets.
An elderly person who named him/herself as trustee—though still with capacity—may cede control by designating a successor trustee to manage trust assets. Likewise, a designated successor trustee may assume control of the trust if the original grantor/trustee becomes mentally incapacitated.
Note that in the above-described scenarios, the Successor Trustee manages and preserves the trust assets while accessing trust assets necessary to provide for the care and support of the Trust’s beneficiary (the individual grantor who created the trust).
The Trust provides for disposition of property upon death to designated beneficiaries in much the same way as a Will, but avoids Probate Court.
Transfers real property upon death to the designated beneficiary (if married, after the death of the second spouse to die). The designated beneficiary can be individual(s), or the Revocable Trust. To be effective, the beneficiary deed must be filed with the recorder of deeds prior to death.
Special Needs Trust
Establishes a separate trust for children with disabilities. The trust provisions provide for the support of the child for his/her health, education and welfare through assets held in the trust. The assets held by the trust for the child’s benefit cannot be used as an offset for any government benefits, e.g., Medicaid provided for the child.
Durable Power of Attorney (Financial)
Provides the designated individual the power to act on his/her behalf for financial transactions such as banking, paying bills, property transfers. A durable power of attorney can take effect immediately, or upon disability as certified by a physician (springing power of attorney).
Health Care Power of Attorney—gives another power to make health care decisions.
Grants authority to a designated family member to make health care decisions for a loved one in the event a physician determines that an individual is mentally or physically unable to make such decisions. Health care POA’s can also include language that basically effectuate what has been commonly referred to as a Living Will (i.e,, end of life decisions). Avoids going to court for the appointment of a guardian.share