- Wills: A legal document declaring a person’s wishes regarding the distribution of his/her property after death. A Will can also nominate a person to act as the legal guardian and conservator for you, or for your minor children should something happen to you and your spouse. Generally, a Will must be probated with the court unless your total estate is valued under $100,000. Furthermore, a Will offers no planning for disability.
- Trusts: In general, an estate planning tool intended to avoid legal expenses involved with probate, which simplifies and protects your estate, and keeps your estate plan and personal assets a private matter. Trusts can also provide for the best interests of surviving spouses and/or minor children.
- General Durable Power of Attorney: A legal document authorizing another person to act as your agent when you are unable to do so yourself. Your agent has authority to act on your behalf (such as paying for your expenses) if you become incompetent or are otherwise unable to handle your financial or legal affairs. This document typically allows your family to avoid the necessity of establishing a separate guardianship and/or conservatorship.
- Healthcare/Medical Power of Attorney: Similar to a durable general power of attorney, but is limited to making healthcare decisions if and when you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.
- Living Will / Healthcare Directive: A legal document indicating preferences or directions for the administration of medical care when you are not able to do so yourself, especially the withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining procedures in the event of a terminal illnesses or prolonged unconsciousness.
- Guardianship for Minor Children: If you have a minor child, you should name someone to raise your child (a guardian) in the event that both parents should pass away before your child becomes an adult. While the likelihood of that actually happening is slim, the consequences of not naming a guardian are great. If you do not name a guardian, a judge will decide who will raise your child without knowing whom you would have preferred.
Powers of Attorney: A Power of Attorney is a document in which you voluntarily create a relationship with another and gives another person the right to act as if they were you. You may limit a power of attorney to a very specific transaction or you may grant full power to someone over all of your affairs. You must have capacity to appoint your attorney-in-fact. If you lack capacity, then you must seek a guardianship and/or conservatorship from the court.
Asset Protection: Asset protection planning may be necessary if you are engaged in high risk occupations or if you just want to ensure that the assets you have built up over your lifetime are protected in the event of unanticipated liability.
Business Owners: If you own a small business, it is important that you complete a business succession plan. For many small business owners, the business itself is often the most valuable asset in their estate. Whether you intend to pass the business on to family members, business partners, or sell to outsiders, it is important that your decision is properly implemented to protect your estate plan.