Most people consider estate planning only in terms of what happens to the assets they own (or who inherits) when they pass away. Through our experience, we have learned that estate planning can bring peace of mind in many ways, but asking an Amateur (like a Family Member or Friend) to do this important work may be burdensome for the inexperienced individual and costly to your estate. The job of Trustee has a great deal of liability and brings responsibility involving years of work.
You have the power to create a plan that will make you feel comfortable and safe. Choosing the right person (to put your plan into into action) to act as Successor Trustee, Executor, Attorney-in-Fact and Agent for Health Care, is one of your most important life decisions.
Here is a brief description of each of the standard estate planning documents and the related job titles:
The Trust - Successor Trustee- You are the first Trustee of your Trust. The Trust operates both when you are alive and after you have passed away and can control important issues like; how you choose to live, who you choose to support, how you will be cared for if you become incapacitated, the standards others have to follow to receive your generosity and who is in charge of getting work done, etc.
The Will - Executor - Your "Last Will and Testament" is your written plan for your assets after your death. Often, a "Pour Over" will is used in conjunction with the Trust documents and instructs the Executor to put assets into the Trust if this was not accomplished before death. This document also lists who you select as guardian(s) for minor children.
Power of Attorney for Finance - Attorney-in-Fact (or Agent) - This document may have different titles and yet it has far reaching instructions and is only in effect while you are living. We recommend that you read all of your documents and understand when your Attorney-in-Fact can begin serving you.
Advance Health Care Directive - Agent for Health-care - Your selected Agent may be the one to decide what medical procedures will be performed on you, when you cannot speak for yourself. We recommend that a friend or family member who is close to you serve as Agent.