Monday, February 25, 2013

Getting Started with Estate Planning

If you're like most people, you have put off estate planning for a rainy day. The problem with procrastinating about this task is if you postpone it too long then your family will have quite a mess to clean up in the midst of their grief.

One of the first steps of estate planning is deciding which methods are most suitable for your life situation. An easy solution is to get help from a law firm. Attorneys can guide you through the maze of Wills and trusts and help determine the best course of action.

Everybody needs a Will. It doesn't matter if you own few assets or many. This document is used for many reasons. It identifies a personal representative who will be in charge of reconciling the estate. Wills also name beneficiaries who are entitled to estate assets, as well as legal guardians for minor children.

Estate representatives record the Will through probate court and must follow directives provided in the document. When people die without preparing a Will their relatives have to abide by state probate law. Most often, heirs have to hire a lawyer to help them through the process and ensure everything is in compliance.

Although Wills can expedite the probate process it's better to avoid it altogether. There are several ways to keep property out of probate court. One of the more effective is transferring property to trusts.  

Living trusts are a popular strategy because they are effective, yet easy to arrange. Any property that is owned by the trust is not considered as part of the estate and therefore exempt from probate.

People fund trusts by transferring ownership of assets. They maintain control over property by designating their self as the Trustee. It isn't very hard to setup trusts, but it can be confusing. It's advisable to obtain legal counsel to minimize risk of estate settlement issues.

Trusts are accompanied with power of attorney, healthcare proxy, and last Wills. Establishing power of attorney is necessary to let other people take care of important duties. This can include a range of things, but typically encompasses financial transactions and healthcare decisions.

There are quite a few POA documents and each can be used for multiple reasons. It's a good idea to talk with a law firm and find out which form is most suited for your circumstances.

General power of attorney is frequently used because it lets agents take care of many duties. Limited power of attorney is another popular form and is used when agents only need to perform a limited number of tasks.

Medical power of attorney is needed to put specific instructions surrounding healthcare in writing. Also known as healthcare proxy or medical directive, this form authorizes a personal agent to make decisions for you if you cannot communicate with physicians.
Putting together an estate plan is one of the greatest gifts you can leave behind. Working together with estate planning lawyers, such as Craton and Switzer, will ensure everything you've worked hard for is protected and can easily be passed along to heirs. 

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