Estate Planning Overview
At its essence, estate planning is involves the planning and preparation of documents, forms of property ownership, and beneficiary designations that allows for the management of a person's property in the event of his or her incapacitation or death.
In the event of death, beneficiaries are named to receive the testamentary gifts, which may be outright or in trust.
In the event of incapacity, the estate plan would include the designation of an Agent to stand in the place of an incapacitated person. Optionally, the plan includes an Advanced Directive for a Naturatl Death (also known as a a "Living Will") in which a person states his or her wishes for the withholding or withdrawal of life-prolonging measures such as intubation, surgical procedures, or antibiotics.
The essential estate planning documents are (i) a Last Will and Testament, (ii) a Financial Power of Attorney, and (iii) a Health Care Power of Attorney with a HIPAA release. Optional documents include an Advanced Directive for a Natural Death (instructions for withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging measures), a Living Trust, and a Retirement Trust. In some cases, the Health Care Power of Attorney and the Advanced Directive are combined in a single document.