Estate Planning Forms and Tools

Estate Planning Forms and Tools

Although no one likes to think about falling ill or passing away, it’s important to plan for it. Preparing a will allows you to make sure your money and property goes to the people you want them to go to. It’s also important to let your loved ones know your wishes if you ever unable to communicate your wishes. The process of estate planning is the way to plan for death or incapacitation. In this section you can find samples for various estate planning tools, such as a sample will, a sample health care power of attorney, and a sample living will. There is also a helpful estate planning checklist and a questionnaire to prepare you for meeting with an estate planning attorney.

Contents of a Basic Will

While there isn’t a standard, legally foolproof will, there are some basic elements that pretty much every will contains. A will should begin by making it clear that it’s meant to be a will and include the full name and residence of the testator (the person who is making the will). It’s also always a good idea to include a statement revoking any previous wills. The will should include to whom you would like to leave your money and property. If you would like to leave specific belongings or amounts of money to various people, you can list these wishes in the will. If, on the contrary, you simply want to leave everything to one person, you could make a general statement conveying that information. A will should also designate an executor to handle estate administration. It’s usually a good idea to include an alternative executor, in case the original executor can’t or won’t take the responsibility of being the executor. Finally, the testator must sign and date the will. While these are the basic elements of a will, it’s important to check the laws of your state to find out the requirements for drafting a will in your state.

Living Wills and Powers of Attorney

All of the states in the U.S. have laws concerning the ability of people to make decisions about their medical care before there is a need for treatment. A living will or advanced directive is a document that allows people to explain the type and duration of medical care they would like to receive if they are in a situation where they can’t communicate those wishes. Each state has its own laws regarding what can be included in a living will, which is why it’s important to check the laws in your jurisdiction or consult with an attorney when drafting a living will.

It’s worth mentioning that a living will and a health care power of attorney concern similar matters, but are very different. As previously mentioned, a living will explains the wishes of the person in the event that he or she can’t communicate the wishes him or herself. A health care power of an attorney can also have the same information as a living will, but it also designates a person to have the legal ability to make medical decision on a person’s behalf. The health care power of attorney is only valid in the event that the person who makes the document is unable to make medical decisions for him or herself.

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney

Wills can be fairly easy to draft if a person doesn’t have very many assets. However, if you have a lot of assets or a complex situation, you should probably hire an estate planning lawyer to help you with your will. Regardless of the size of your estate, if you have questions or concerns about estate planning, you might want to consult with an attorney.

Free Consultation with a Utah Estate Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have an estate issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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Help a Loved One Make a Power of Attorney

Watching a loved one decline is hard enough by itself, but the process can become a nightmare if that loved one hasn’t set up powers of attorney for healthcare and/or finances. It’s imperative that family members and loved ones make decisions while they are healthy about whom they want to make decisions for them if and when they become incapacitated. There are two key areas where a person needs to establish a power of attorney in someone they trust: healthcare and finances.

Help a Loved One Make a Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney for Healthcare

The power of attorney for healthcare is given to the person you want to make medical decisions for you in an emergency. Even though you may have set out your wishes in your healthcare declaration, such documents can never cover every circumstance, and the person who has a durable power of attorney for healthcare is the person who makes decisions not covered by your healthcare directive. Keep in mind that the person with a power of attorney for healthcare can never contradict the terms of your healthcare declaration. Depending on the state you live in, the person you grant a durable power of attorney for healthcare will typically be called your “agent,” “proxy,” or “attorney-in-fact”. The typical rights for this person include:

  • The power to offer or deny consent for medical treatments so long as it doesn’t disagree with anything in your living will.
  • The power to decide what medical facilities you should go to.
  • The power to decide which doctors and medical personnel you should see.
  • The power to go to court over whether to receive or withhold medical treatment.
  • The power to decide about how your body will be handled after death, often including organ donation (if you have specific feelings on these matters, write them into your living will which will always trump someone with power of attorney).
  • Access to your medical records.
  • Visitation rights.

In granting the power of attorney, you can give a person complete authority to make all decisions, or limit them significantly to make only specific decisions. Be careful when greatly limiting such power, however, since the primary reason to have such a person is because your living will cannot cover every possibility. If you want specificity, it is better to do that in your living will, which the person with a durable power of attorney can’t override anyways.

In order to create a power of attorney for healthcare, most states only require that you be an adult (typically 18) and be competent when you create the document. This document takes effect when your doctor declares that you lack the “capacity” to make your own health care decisions. The power of attorney for healthcare is generally only extinguished upon your death, revocation by you or a court, or upon divorce if the power of attorney was granted to the ex-spouse.

Power of Attorney for Finances

The power of attorney for finances is given to allow someone else to manage your finances in the event that you become incapacitated and are unable to make those decisions yourself. More precisely, the financial power of attorney is a document that grants someone legal authority to act on your behalf for financial issues. This person’s official title depends on the state you live in, but is often referred to as your agent or as an attorney-in-fact. Just as with the power of attorney for healthcare, you can set the limits of your financial agent’s power, granting as much or as little power as you think is appropriate. When deciding whether to set limits, consider the kind of tasks your agent will likely be asked to perform:

  • Paying your bills
  • Paying your taxes
  • Paying medical expenses
  • Managing your real estate assets
  • Accessing your financial accounts
  • Investing on your behalf
  • Collecting any retirement benefits
  • Transferring and selling your assets
  • Buying insurance for you
  • Operating your small business
  • Hiring someone to represent you

Your agent cannot do whatever he or she wants to do, but must act in your best interests. One area of potential conflict to keep in mind is in regards to paying for medical expenses. If your financial and medical agent aren’t the same person or disagree on medical care, the financial agent can make receiving medical care difficult.

To create a power of attorney for finances, most states offer simple forms to fill out. Although most states don’t require that you use these forms, it is always a good idea to do so. Generally, the document must be signed, witnessed and notarized by an adult. If your agent will have to deal with real estate assets, some states require you to put the document on file in the local land records office. In addition, many banks have their own forms, and while not strictly necessary, it will make the process much easier if your bank knows who your financial agent is. Finally, the power of attorney for finances is generally only extinguished upon your death, revocation by you or a court, or upon divorce.

Free Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer in Utah

If you are here, you probably have an estate issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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Wills and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

Wills and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

Unmarried couples living together often wish to share property ownership and make crucial life decisions together. There are several methods to share property rights that are recognized by the law, including joint tenancies, cohabitation agreements or “living together” contracts, and wills. This is estate planning. If couples want their life decisions to have legal validity, particularly decisions regarding medical treatment and finances, they should create what is known as the durable power of attorney.

Wills

A will is a legal document that details what an individual would like done with his or her property and assets after death. If you have property you wish your cohabitant to receive after your death, you need to describe the property in your will and indicate your wish. Otherwise, if you don’t have a will to detail your wishes, your property will pass according to what are called intestate succession laws.

In most states, intestate succession statutes automatically distribute your property to your closest family members, i.e. your spouse, children, parents, etc. Without a will, your cohabitant won’t receive any of your estate unless he or she is successful in arguing that you had a financial or property-sharing arrangement. Such claims are often difficult to prove, particularly with the lack of any formal documents. Drafting a will is generally the best way to ensure your property is passed to whom you wish.

However, if you and your cohabitant are joint owners of the property, you may wish to consider a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship instead of a will. Joint tenancies give the cohabitants the ability to share the rights and responsibilities associated with the property during their lifetimes. Then, upon the death of one joint tenant, title to the property automatically passes to the other, without the need to go through the formal probate process a will requires. There are other benefits to a joint tenancy, such as tax savings, documentation of commitment, and the sharing of debt.

Durable Powers of Attorney

When you create a “power of attorney,” you have authorized another person to make decisions on your behalf, particularly decisions that may have a legal effect. If you want the person making decisions for you (let’s say it is your unmarried partner) to be able to do so even if you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself, then you will have to make those legal powers “durable.” If you don’t explicitly make the power of attorney durable, they will end if you become incapacitated and your unmarried partner may have to go to court to ask the judge to continue managing your affairs.

Power of Attorney for Finances

There are generally two types of durable power of attorney, but this can vary depending upon the state you reside in. The first type, called the durable financial power of attorney, applies only to financial decisions. If you grant someone the durable financial power of attorney over your affairs, he or she will be able to manage your finances when you become unable, and must always act in your best interests.

Power of Attorney for Health Care

Second, there is a durable power of attorney for health care. While state regulations vary, the durable power of attorney for health care, otherwise known as a “medical directive,” allows you to name someone to direct your medical care if you become incapacitated. When creating a medical directive, you make what is called a health care declaration, or medical directive. The health care declaration sets out how you should be cared for in an emergency or if you are incapacitated. Specifically, you can direct which treatments you want to receive and which you do not. Life-prolonging treatments like resuscitation are often addressed in a medical directive, as are directions regarding quality of life and end of life treatments.

Once you have granted a durable power of attorney for medical care, the person you nominated to make decisions on your behalf will be able to:

  • Make medical decisions on your behalf, if you have not already made specific instructions regarding that decision in your medical directive
  • Enforce your health care decisions in court, if necessary
  • Hire and fire doctors and medical workers involved in your treatment
  • Have access to your medical records
  • Have visitation rights

 

Free Consultation with a Utah Estate Lawyer

When you need help with a will, trust, or estate, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. Because I am a probate lawyer, I can help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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