Last Will & Testament

A will is a document that you are able to determine and control:

  • Who will raise your children should you (and your spouse if applicable) die while they are still minors;
  • Who your beneficiaries are (persons to whom you leave your property);
  • How your elected beneficiaries are to receive their inheritance;
  • The person you elect to distribute your estate; and
  • Specifically identified gifts (wedding rings, vehicles, memorabilia, and etcetera).

If you were to die without executing a will, the court in your county will appoint a person to distribute your estate and the court determines to whom your assets are distributed.  Many additional expenses will be incurred and your estate’s assets will thus reduce in size.

Additionally, the court on its own merit elects a guardian that will be in charge of raising your children until they are adults.

Trusts

A trust holds property outside your estate.  This can be useful for tax consequences, or to determine how and when to distribute assets to your beneficiaries.  For example, you can decide to create a trust such that your children do not receive the bulk of their inheritance until they reach a certain age (twenty-five for example) rather than as soon as they turn eighteen.

Unlike a will, trusts are private and not open to public inspection.  Assets held in trust may immediately be transferred to others outside of probate and in certain cases, the assets are not available to creditors against your estate.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney authorizes another person to act for you in various matters.  These could be financial powers, which authorizes your selected person to pay your bills should you become incapacitated or during the pendency of your estate being distributed to your beneficiaries; or health care powers, which authorizes your selected person to make end-of-life decisions such as admission to a nursing home, inserting or removing a feeding tube, and other health care decisions.