What is included in an estate plan?

Will and Testament: Wills are legal documents that inform the probate court of your wishes regarding the management of your assets and care for your children. These wishes can include appointing a guardian and conservator for your children, the distribution of funds, and the appointment of a personal representative for your estate. Unlike a living trust, wills are public documents that do not avoid probate court. Hence, if you do not have a trust, your heirs will have to go to probate court to receive their inheritance and retitle your assets after your death.

Living Trust: A living trust, specifically a revocable living trust, holds assets (i.e. bank accounts, property and investments) during your life and plans for distribution upon your death. Living trusts include provisions instructing your trustee on how to manage assets, who can manage your assets, and when to distribute assets to beneficiaries. Revocable living trusts can be amended or modified at any time by the individual who made the trust. The person who made the trust retains control until they choose not to, become incapacitated, or pass away. Unlike a will, trusts are private documents that avoid probate court after your death and are administered without court interference.

Certificate of Trust: A certificate of trust is a limited version of your living trust, that proves the existence of a trust, the trustee(s) of the trust, the trustees’ powers and the governing law of the trust. The purpose of a certificate of trust is to provide financial intuitions and other organizations with adequate information to set up trust accounts while withholding private information found in the living trust that does not need to be disclosed.

Patient Advocate Designation: Also referred to as medical power of attorney, this document provides the guidelines for who you would like to make medical decisions on your behalf during your lifetime and incapacity.

HIPAA Authorization: The HIPAA Authorization allows individuals you designate to receive medical information on your behalf. Typically these are family members and/or agents under your medical power of attorney.

Financial Power of Attorney: Also referred to as durable power of attorney, this document is only valid during your lifetime. Financial powers of attorney allow designated individuals handle your financial affairs upon disability, incapacity or old age. Financial powers of attorney are extremely important for allowing family members access to your finances to pay medical bills and other expenses during your incapacity.

Funding Instructions: After executing a trust, it is critical to remember to fund your trust and correctly title your various assets to meet your goals. Funding instructions provide clients with detailed instructions on how to title retirement accounts, real estate, business interests and other assets.

Much More: Our estate plans may include many other legal documents that are not listed in this article. Some of these documents include various forms of deeds, assignments of personal property, assignments of stock, and remembrance and service memorandums, to name a few. Learn more on our website www.saynotoprobate.com or call an attorney at 248-457-9860.

This article is meant for informational purposes only. Please recognize that nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. If you have any questions, comments, or seek legal assistance, please call one of the attorneys at Wakefield, Sutherland and Lubera, P.L.C.