Basic Estate Planning Tools that Every Person Should Know about
Most people will, or should, have a will drafted at some point during their life. If you have picked a competent attorney to draft your will, chances are he or she will also discuss a health care directive and durable power of attorney. These three documents are the basic estate documents that everyone should consider.
Not everyone needs a will, but for most people, the time will come when it makes sense to put one together. At the most basic level, the will is a set of legal instructions that you wish for people to follow when you pass away. Most importantly it 1) gives instructions on how your property should be distributed, 2) appoints the person who will administer your estate, including the distribution of property and payment of debts and final expenses, and 3) appoints a guardian to look after your minor children or other people who may not be able to care for themselves.
Your attorney will need to have a complete picture or your personal and financial situation in order to draft your will. Most will provide you with a questionnaire that you can fill out and return prior to drafting. Make sure to fill out the information completely so that the attorney does not miss something important to your plan.
Power of Attorney:
What happens to you if you are in an accident or have a health issue that leaves you temporarily or permanently unable to take care of your personal business? Normally, if you have not planned ahead, your family or loved ones will end up having to apply for permission from the court to appoint someone to take care of your affairs. This can be avoided at very little cost with just a little bit of forethought.
A durable power of attorney appoints a person or persons of your choosing to take care of your financial affairs for you. You can choose to make the power continuous, even if you become incapacitated (thus the word durable). You can also choose the extent of the power. For example, you can limit the subject matter to specific types of acts (real property transactions, utility payments, etc.), or choose to make the power general (applicable to all types of transactions).
Health Care Directive:
A health care directive is the appointment of an agent to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. It also provides that agent with instructions as to the type of care you wish to have. For example, you might say that if you are in a permanent vegetative state, that you do not wish to be resuscitated, and that you wish only to receive care to provide comfort and to minimize pain. You can also specify burial or cremation instructions, and make decisions about the donation of organs.
Remember that if you do not make these decisions ahead of time, someone will end up making the decision for you. These after the fact decisions often involve the court system, and may lead to a dispute between different family members. For a relatively low cost you can put documents into place that avoid more painful and expensive processes later.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cameron R. Kelly, Cameron Kelly Law, LLC
Cameron Kelly Law, LLC is a law firm located in Stillwater Minnesota, serving clients throughout the St. Croix River Valley, Washington, Ramsey, Hennepin, and Chisago Counties. The firm specializes in providing services to businesses, including contract services, employment issues, real estate law, estate planning and probate. These services include transactional and litigation work. The owner of the firm, Cameron R. Kelly, has a strong background in transactional work including purchases and sales, leasing, and secured transactions. He focuses on forming strong relationships with his business clients, and helping them with their everyday issues, as well as their long term needs.
In addition to his experience in litigation and transactional work, Mr. Kelly is certified by the Minnesota State Bar Association as a Real Property Specialist.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.