Components of a Simple Estate Plan

Estate PlanningMeeting with experienced and affordable estate planning attorneys is a must to determine if a simple estate plan is best for you and your family.

There are four basic pieces to a simple estate plan: 

  • Will
  • Durable financial power of attorney
  • Health care power of attorney
  • Living will (if desired)

Will

A will is a written document that provides for the disposition of your tangible and intangible assets upon your death.  A will should describe your family structure and provide beneficiaries for your real estate, tangible assets (e.g. clothes, jewelry, furniture, etc.) and your intangible assets (e.g. bank accounts, cash, bonds, etc.)  A will may also provide for contingent beneficiaries in the event any named beneficiary predeceases you.  A will also names an executor.  An executor is the person or entity that you would like to carry out your wishes and make sure your assets get to the proper beneficiaries pursuant to your will.  A properly drafted will should also describe the rights and powers of the executor to carry out your wishes.  Additionally, a will can provide your nominations for a guardian for your minor and disabled children, if any.  Although these nominations are not binding on a probate court, they certainly assist a court in making a decision taking into account your preferences.  Without a will, your assets will be distributed pursuant to the State’s statute of descent and distribution.  This may or may not comply with your wishes.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney

A durable financial power of attorney is a written document that provides the power to a named attorney-in-fact to “step into your shoes” in financial dealings.  This is especially important if you are incapacitated in some way for a period of time.  A durable financial power of attorney may allow the attorney-in-fact to do the following things, among others, on your behalf:  sign tax returns; sell or mortgage real estate; handle banking matters, including signing checks; deal with investment accounts; and make gifts.  Without a durable financial power of attorney, anyone desiring to assist you with financial issues during a period of disability will need to file for a guardianship of your estate with the probate court, a time consuming and, potentially, expensive process.  Additionally, a durable financial power of attorney can provide your nominations for a guardian for your minor and disabled children, if any.  Although these directions are not binding on a probate court, they certainly assist a court in making a decision taking into account your preferences.

Health Care Power of Attorney

A health care power of attorney is a written document that provides the power to a named attorney-in-fact to “step into your shoes” in health care matters.  This is especially important if you are incapacitated in some way for a period of time.  A health care power of attorney may allow the attorney-in-fact to do the following things, among others, on your behalf:  consent to treatment; request medical records; request transfers to other facilities; and communicate effectively with treating physicians without putting the physician in an awkward situation regarding physician-patient privilege. Without a health care power of attorney, anyone desiring to assist you with medical issues during a period of disability will need to file for a guardianship of your person with the probate court, a time consuming and, potentially, expensive process.

Living Will

A living will is a written document that makes an extremely important decision your own.  A living will is your statement to the world that if you are (a) in a permanently unconscious state or (b)have in a terminal condition with no chance of recovery [as certified by two physicians], then it is your desire to not be kept alive by artificial means and to die naturally.  Again, since you execute this document prior to any situation in which a living will would be necessary, it takes this difficult decision out of the hands of spouses, relatives, and other loved ones.  A living will is sometimes confused with a do not resuscitate order.  These are two completely different documents.  Only a doctor can issue a do not resuscitate order. A living will does not have anything to do with resuscitation or heroic measures to save your life, it only addresses what happens if, after all medical means have been exhausted, you remain (a) permanently unconscious or (b) terminal condition.  Having a living will is your personal choice.  Depending on your views, religious, moral, or otherwise, you may or may not choose to have a living will.

Let the experienced attorneys at Arenstein & Andersen Co., LPA help you gain peace of mind by explaining the estate planning process and by providing you with options to help you and your family.

About Arenstein & Andersen Co., LPA

Arenstein & Andersen Co., LPA is a Dublin, Ohio law firm that provides comprehensive estate planning and probate services. Some of our legal services relating to estate planning and probate include:  preparing revocable trusts, wills, powers of attorney, healthcare powers of attorney, and living wills; assisting with advanced wealth transfer strategies, including the preparation of irrevocable trusts, such as domestic asset protection trusts, charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, and life insurance trusts, along with other wealth transfer tools such as family limited partnerships; counseling clients on probate avoidance techniques to streamline and reduce the costs associated with estate administration; assisting business owners with succession and wealth transfer planning; planning for children or other loved ones with special needs to include the use of wholly discretionary trusts, supplemental services trusts, and special needs trusts to protect the beneficiary’s eligibility for public assistance benefits; advising clients on Medicaid planning and other elder care issues; representing Executors, Administrators, and Trustees with the administration of estates and trusts, including assistance with tax planning and the preparation of Federal estate tax returns, and Federal and Ohio fiduciary income tax returns; and assisting with applications for, and the administration of, guardianships for both minors and incompetents.