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What is an Estate Plan?

Posted by Samantha W. Koopman | Oct 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

Many people know that the general purpose of an estate plan is to direct how your estate—that is, the things you own—is to be distributed at your death. But many people do not know the specifics of what an estate plan entails. If you come to an estate planning attorney for an estate plan, what exactly are you getting?

At the Law Offices of Thomas Malley, we provide six documents that create your estate plan: a trust, pour-over will, durable power of attorney for healthcare, HIPAA authorization, durable power of attorney for financial management, and nomination of conservators.

Trust—The trust is the foundation of your estate plan. Your trust designates the people to receive your property after your death. You can amend or revoke your trust at any time during your lifetime. During your lifetime, you are the sole beneficiary of the trust and are entitled to any of the income or principal you desire. You have the power to revoke the trust during your lifetime. After your death, the trust will be divided into separate shares for your beneficiaries without the need for a court-supervised probate proceeding. The benefit of a trust over a will is that a trust can be administered privately, without the need to go to court.

Pour-Over Will—In a perfect world, all of your property (with the possible exception of retirement plan assets) would either be owned by your trust or payable on death to your trust. If so, there would be no need to have a will because you would own nothing in your individual name and therefore would have nothing to will away. However, as a safety measure, we prepare a pour-over will for you. If, for some reason, any of your property remains outside of your trust at the time of your death (and not in joint-tenancy or some other form that automatically pays to a designated beneficiary outside of probate), the pour-over will adds the property to your revocable trust, to be distributed as provided in the trust document. 

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare— A durable power of attorney for healthcare allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. This documents also includes advanced healthcare directives, which allow you to make other decisions, such as authorizing an autopsy, disposing of your remains, making anatomical gifts, and nominating a conservator of the person to take care of you upon your incapacity.

HIPAA Authorization—This authorization allows you to name a person or persons who are authorized to receive your healthcare information in the event you become incapacitated.

Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Management—A durable power of attorney for financial management allows your designated agent to manage for your benefit any property held outside of your trust during your lifetime (e.g., social security benefits and retirement plans). Without this document, a court-supervised conservatorship would be required in the event you became mentally incapacitated during your lifetime.

Nomination of Conservators—In the event you do not have a valid power of attorney for financial management and you become mentally incapacitated, the person(s) listed on this documents will be nominated as your first choice for conservator of your estate. The court generally gives preference to persons nominated by the conservatee.

Each of these documents is custom made for you and your specific circumstances. Each document can be amended over time to fit your changing needs, so there is no reason to wait. Creating an estate plan is not a fill-in-the-blank process; we meet with you and continually communicate with you to ensure you receive a plan that perfectly reflects your wishes. An estate plan offers peace of mind because you know your family is protected if you pass away or become incapacitated.

Estate plans are not just for the elderly or the wealthy. Even if a full estate plan isn't for you at this time, we can work with your situation and your budget to give you the documents you need to have peace of mind and protection for your assets and your family. Call the Law Offices of Thomas Malley today at 805-482-2199 or email us at [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys to discuss you estate planning needs. No need to be local—we offer phone and video chat consultations for clients outside of the Ventura County area, and we can set up a signing appointment with a notary local to you.

About the Author

Samantha W. Koopman

Samantha Koopman has been an associate at the Law Offices of Thomas Malley since January 2017. She received her bachelor's degree in Business Administration with concentrations in Accounting and Finance from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. After college, she moved to Southern Californi...

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