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While it may be the last thing you want to think about, estate planning is an important step you can take to protect the interests of your family. A well prepared estate plan will help you ensure your wishes are carried out and your loved ones are taken care of once you're gone. If you pass away without a plan in place, your family members may be left to sort out the mess in court. To give you a better idea of what estate planning entails, this section provides detailed information on wills, trusts, health care directives, probate, and estate administration. You'll find articles and resources on making a will, challenging a will, creating a health care power of attorney, setting up a trust, navigating the probate process, and more.
Wills, Living Wills, and Trusts
A will can help make the transition after a loss as painless as possible for your loved ones. Your property will be transferred quickly and many tax burdens can be avoided. Wills typically describe the estate, name individuals who will receive specific property, and dictate any special instructions you may have. Depending on your wishes and the size of your estate, your will could be anywhere from a single page to a lengthy document.
While a will allows you to express your financial wishes once you're gone, a living will expresses your health care preferences while you're still alive. With a living will, you'll be able to designate the medical treatment you wish to receive, should you become unable to communicate your wishes due to illness or incapacitation. A health care power of attorney, on the other hand, allows you to designate a person who can make medical or end-of-life decisions on your behalf.
Trusts are another estate planning tool you can use to manage your property and avoid tax burdens. A trust can either be created during a person's lifetime, or after death, by a will. There are a number of different types of trusts serving a wide range of functions. An asset protection trust, for example, is designed to protect a person's assets from future creditors. A charitable trust, on the other hand, is used to benefit a particular charity or cause.
Estate Planning Lawyers
An estate planning attorney can help you in a number of different ways. If you're interested in creating a will or setting up a trust, an estate planning attorney can draft the necessary documents and help lay the legal groundwork for your plan. That way, your loved ones will be able to avoid the costly and time-consuming probate process. In addition, if you'd like to express your wishes regarding medical treatment, an estate planning attorney can help you draft a living will or a health care power of attorney.
If a loved one dies without a will, on the other hand, probate could be necessary. Probate is the court-supervised process of sorting out a person's affairs. If that's the case, it may be important for you to find an experienced probate attorney. An estate planning attorney will be able to guide you through the probate process and represent your interests in court.
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