Estate Planning 101

Think you need massive fortunes to get an estate plan? No way. Alison and Derek discuss Advance Healthcare Directives, Power or Attorney, and Will as parts of your estate plan.

Making a plan for what happens with an incapacitated person and that person is you.

Advance Healthcare Directive:
This will inform your doctor of your wishes and identifies and names the decision maker in the event you become incapacitated.
This can be downloaded from the internet and doesn’t necessarily need legal help, can include burial wishes and pre purchase and help avoid your loved one dealing with financial and other decisions at an emotional time.
Attach a letter to you AHD giving additional guidance to your family – it can be changed and replaced as needed, eg: write your own obituary, suggest specific gifts to specific people etc. If your desires are clear there it is easier for the family to make decisions.

Power of Attorney:
This gives someone the ability to conduct your financial affairs, provide guardianship, conservatorship etc. This can be written to kick in when you become incapacitated as opposed to at death (eg: you are in a coma).
You might need a PoA for other situations such as your being out of contact, financial transactions when you aren’t present, international transactions etc. Joint account access can be useful for retirement accounts, bank accounts etc. this can expedite things when you are incapacitated.

If you have no will, you die intestate and the State’s Statutes will decide who gets what under the Uniform Probate Code, which is often impractical in today’s world.
A will allows you to decide what happens, who has guardianship, who gets what etc.
It is possible to incorporate listed information to the back of the will that can be changed easily into a will. Useful for  specific sentimental and/or monetary items
Generally each individual has a will which can be changed individually. A couple could write a contract to the wills to disallow changes, but this usually ends up in litigation anyway

Trusts & Complex Special Circumstances:
Generally these aren’t necessary in most circumstances. Some examples:
Special Needs Trusts for survivors with problems
Trust for Children Under Age
Medicade Trusts
Changing Ownership to avoid MaineCare seizure
These are complex and expensive with specialist legal advice often needed. 

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