A Will is a written document that determines who will inherit your estate when you die and names the person who will administer your estate (the “Personal Representative”). A Will only controls assets which are in your individual name when you die. Assets which are jointly owned, name a beneficiary, or are in the name of a Trust do not pass under the terms of your Will. See also Estate Planning.
A Trust is a written document under which one or more individuals (the trustees) agree to hold the Trust property for the beneficiaries of the Trust. Trusts can be used to avoid probate, minimize taxes, and plan for minor or disabled children. We also use Trusts for long term care planning. See also Estate Planning and Long Term Care Planning and Asset Protection.
Estate Planning is the overarching category which includes Wills, Trusts and other legal documents. The purpose of estate planning is to be sure that your assets pass at your death to your beneficiaries in the manner you want with the lowest taxes possible and that your assets and personal decision-making can be managed during your lifetime if you are incapacitated or incompetent. Our firm provides a comprehensive estate plan that includes a Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Living Will/Advance Directive, and HIPAA releases along with a host of other documents to organize your affairs after your death. Our attorneys have an average of over 20 years of experience in estate planning and have extensive experience with tax law. See also Tax Law.
Health Care Proxies and Living Wills
A Health Care Proxy names a Health Care Agent to make health care decisions for a person who cannot make or communicate their own medical decisions. The duty of a Health Care Agent includes making end of life decisions. In doing so, the Health Care Agent can be guided by a Living Will/Advance Directive. If you are not able to make your own medical decisions and you do not have a valid Health Care Proxy, the probate court will appoint a guardian to represent you. See also Guardianships and Estate Planning.
Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney is a written document in which you appoint another person(s), called the “Attorney-in-Fact”, to handle your financial affairs such as writing checks, selling property, and other tasks. If you do not have a valid Durable Power of Attorney and you are unable to manage your financial affairs, then the Probate Court must appoint a Conservator to act for you. See also Conservatorships and Estate Planning.
LLC stands for Limited Liability Corporation. An LLC is much less complicated to set up and manage than a traditional corporation. LLCs are pass through entities and all income from an LLC is reported on the owners’ (known as members) individual tax return(s). We usually recommend using an LLC to clients who have rental property to protect the owner’s other assets in the event of a lawsuit related to the property. LLCs can also be used to help avoid probate and facilitate management of a property for future generations.
We are able to prepare and file estate tax returns and gift tax returns, and we can provide tax advice concerning retirement funds and other areas.