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Planning Now For Your Future

Estate Planning - When you plan for yourself

Creating an estate plan is one of the most significant legal steps you can take for yourself and your loved ones. It empowers you to make decisions regarding your future, rather than leaving those decisions to an outsider or governmental entity. Below are some documents that are commonly included in an estate plan package:

A legally binding document authorizing another individual (agent) to make financial decisions on your behalf during your lifetime, in the event that you are unable to do so.

A legally binding document granting authority to another individual (agent) to make medical decisions on your behalf during your lifetime, should you become incapacitated.

A legally binding document providing specific instructions to your healthcare provider or doctor regarding your end-of-life care, such as the use of life support, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and feeding tubes.

A legally binding document outlining your directives for the distribution of your property and assets following your death.

A legally binding document where you appoint another individual (trustee) to hold title to your property for the benefit of a third party (beneficiary).

A deed establishing a beneficiary for your real property, similar to designations on bank accounts, retirement accounts, or vehicle titles.

Adult Guardianship - When the court (or someone else) plans for you

In the absence of an estate plan, such as a financial power of attorney or a medical directive, an individual who becomes incapable of managing their financial and medical affairs may require the appointment of a guardian. Upon the filing of a petition with the court, a hearing will be scheduled to determine (1) whether the individual is capable of managing their own affairs, and (2) who will be appointed as the guardian. Below are terms describing the types of guardians or alternative to a guardian:

 A court-appointed individual (guardian) authorized to make financial decisions on your behalf during your lifetime, in the event you become incapacitated.

A court-appointed individual (guardian) authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf during your lifetime, should you become incapacitated.

An individual designated to manage limited property or income, such as Social Security or VA benefits, potentially eliminating the need for a guardian or power of attorney.

Probate Administration – Where your assets go after your death

Upon an individual’s death, their loved ones are tasked with distributing the deceased’s property (or assets) in accordance with the provisions set forth in the decedent’s will or trust. In the absence of an estate plan, the distribution of property (or assets) will be governed by state law, typically resulting in the property being transferred to the next of kin (or closest living relative). Navigating probate administration can be challenging without guidance from an attorney, as the process involves gathering assets, notifying creditors, filing final tax returns, preparing inventories and accountings, and adhering to various deadlines. Below are the terms that describe a person’s death status as it relates to probate administration:

Your property is distributed according to the instructions you have outlined in your Last Will and Testament.

Your property is distributed to your relatives in a specific order determined by state law.

In the absence of known living relatives, your property reverts to the state government as mandated by law.

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