Estate Planning - Family Trusts

Last Will & Testament
Revocable Living Trust
Financial Durable Power of Attorney
Living Will Declaration/Advanced Directive
Medical Power of Attorney/Healthcare Surrogate
HIPAA Authorization
Pet Trust/Animal Care Trust

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The kindest thing you can do for your family and/or other loved ones is to create a plan that specifically directs how your assets should be handled when you die. It can make a difficult time easier and assure that what you want to take place will do so.

You don't need to hire an attorney to prepare such an estate plan.There are guidelines that can help you cover all your bases without paying for legal assistance.

Your plan should cover all your bases, including a will, durable Power of Attorney for property management, advanced health care directives, authorization to release medical information and your desires for the care of minor children, if you have them. Your plan, of course, should be designed to address your particular requirements. No two plans will be identical.

All estate planning documents must be notarized to make them official, so don't neglect that aspect of your planning. Also, although you don't want everyone to know your specifics, be sure someone you know and trust knows where the documents are located. State laws concerning estate planning documents vary, so be certain you are following the pertinent guidelines. in some states there is threshold at which a will must be subjected to probate. In California, for instance, assets in excess of $150,000 must be submitted for probate.

Some particulars about the documents include:

A Will should describe property and how it is to be distributed after death. A person should be named to execute the will exactly as directed.

Living Revocable Trust: A document that may allow heirs to bypass probate. A trustee is named to handle the estate. It addresses all concerns inherent in the estate.

Financial Power of Attorney gives a chosen person the power to handle financial matters if you incapacitated, including but not limited to money management and paying bills. It may save your family from a costly conservatorship. It remains effective only until the death of the person granting power of attorney.

Advanced Healthcare Directive outlines a person's wishes regarding how he or is to be treated in the case of incapacitation. It includes such items as whether extraordinary measures should be taken to prolong life.

HIPPA Release: Federal laws enacted some years ago to protect medical information created difficulties for families who had to take care of such things as insurance. The release authorizes a certain individual to have access to hospital and doctor records so they can act for the person who is not able. Properly notarized and protected, these documents will ease affairs upon the passing of a family member.