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Estate Plan Benefits

This page summarizes the most common estate planning documents, and the benefits of each. If your your personal, financial, or tax situation is complex, your own estate plan may also include additional documents prepared for your by your HBK estate planning attorney.

A will is a legal document that states how a person wants his or her property distributed after his or her death. A will is only legally binding if it is signed by a person with legal capacity and if it meets other legal requirements of one's state of residence at death. The main benefit of having a will is that you (rather than a state "intestacy law") get to choose the people who will inherit your property.

Living Trust
A living trust (also sometimes called a revocable trust) is a legal arrangement in which a person, called the “settlor,” transfers property to a trustee to administer for the benefit of a person or persons (the “beneficiary”). The settlor,  initial trustee and beneficiary can be, and usually are, the same person. For example, Jane Smith may transfer legal title of her home from “Jane Smith” to “Jane Smith as Trustee of the Jane Smith Revocable Trust." Property transferred to a revocable living trust is generally still taxed for income and estate tax purposes in the same way as it was when it was held just in the settlor’s name.

A "revocable living trust" can be revised or even revoked by the settlor so long as he or she is living and is not disabled. A benefit of a revocable living trust is that when the settlor passes away, the living trust allows the property that was transferred to it prior to death to be distributed to the people named in the trust without the necessity of court administered probate. A living trust also provides a way to manage the property of a settlor who becomes disabled.

An "irrevocable trust" cannot be revoked, and the power to amend it is generally very limited. An irrevocable trust can be used to protect assets from improper influence and may shelter the assets from claims by spouses or creditors.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
This is also known as an "advance health care directive" or a "statutory power of attorney for health care." In this legal document, which generally follows a form set by state law, the creator of the power of attorney names another person or succession of persons (the "agent") to make medical decisions on behalf of the creator should he or she become disabled and unable to make his or her own decisions. It can include a statement of the maker’s desires regarding sensitive issues such as organ donation and the use of extraordinary medical means to extend life. It should also contain specific language authorizing medical providers to share otherwise confidential information with the agents to use in making medical decisions.

Living Will
A living will is a short document that states the maker’s intention that extraordinary means not be used to prolong his or her life under certain circumstances. Not all states recognize a living will. We include both a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care in all estate plans where the client expresses the intention that they not be kept alive by artificial means under certain circumstances. This is a highly personal decision left up to each individual client.

Durable Property Power of Attorney
This is also known as a "statutory property power of attorney." This legal document, generally following a form set by state law, names another person or succession of persons (the "agent") to manage some or all of the maker’s property should he or she become disabled and unable to make his or her own financial decisions.

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