Powers of Attorney
Powers of Attorney are a low-cost and efficient way to decide who has the authority to carry out your affairs in the event that you are unable to speak or act on your own behalf. Typically, the individual designated to handle your affairs when you become incapacitated is your spouse, and your children after that, but you can designate who that you would like to handle your affairs in your Powers of Attorney. These documents are a cornerstone of every well-drafted estate plan and should be drafted by a competent elder law attorney.
A Durable Power of Attorney, also known as a Financial Power of Attorney, allows for a designated individual to help you manage your financial affairs when you are unable to take care of them yourself. Our Financial Power of Attorney allows for the agent to broadly manage your financial affairs so that he or she can do so in your best interest.
A Healthcare Power of Attorney allows for a designated individual to make healthcare decisions on your behalf when you are unable to make those decisions. Our Healthcare Power of Attorney is broad and allows for the agent to broadly make healthcare decisions regarding medicines, treatment, and personnel in a manner that is in our client’s best interest, and also allows for him or her to remain in their personal residence for as long as possible.
If you become unable to speak or act on your own behalf and do not have Powers of Attorney, then your loved ones may be forced to undergo a lengthy, expensive, and court-supervised proceeding known as a guardianship in order to speak or act on your behalf. Guardianship proceedings may also be necessary if an attorney drafts incorrect Powers of Attorney or Powers of Attorney that do not contain the language necessary to allow for your agent to act on your behalf. That is why it is imperative that all estate plans include Powers of Attorney, as without them a court proceeding is probably inevitable.
When an individual passes away and he or she has property solely in his or her own name, the asset must pass through a court-supervised legal process known as “probate” in order to determine to whom the asset will now belong. If the individual has no estate plan, then state law will determine who that individual’s heirs are and what they will receive.
The probate process itself is often both time-consuming and expensive. Probate averages around one to two years, and can consume an average of eight to fifteen percent of the entire estate in legal, court, and other administrative fees! In a probate proceeding where family members are fighting one another, the process becomes even more time-consuming and expensive. The Dudeck Law Firm encourages its clients to create an estate plan that avoids the probate process altogether, providing for a smooth and easy settlement of your estate.
Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament is a basic estate planning tool that allows for an individual to designate which individuals get particular property upon their death; these designated individuals are referred to as beneficiaries. The individual creating a Will is referred to in legal terms as the testator, which is simply the person who created the Will. This same individual will appoint an executor, which is the individual who is responsible for making sure that any debts and creditors of the testator are paid off, and then that the wishes of the testator regarding which individuals will receive particular property are carried out upon the testator’s death.
There is a common misconception that a Last Will and Testament will avoid probate. However, a Will merely serves as a guideline for a probate judge to determine who is going to get what property upon that individual’s death. An individual with a Will must still hire an attorney who does probate proceedings, and appear before a probate judge. For that reason, the Dudeck Law Firm encourages its clients to create an estate plan that includes a trust in most cases, but still does Wills if that is what the client desires.
A trust is a legal concept where property is held by a trustee for the benefit of another. Just as with a Last Will and Testament, a Trust provides a detailed set of instructions that direct how your assets are to be distributed when you pass away. However, unlike a Will, a Trust avoids the legal process known as probate, which allows for a relatively quick and easy settlement of your estate, without the cost of probate.
Trusts can be structured to where they are either revocable or irrevocable, depending on what our clients’ goals are. Our goal in creating our clients’ trusts is to ensure that they preserve their assets to provide for both themselves and their loved ones, in the manner that they want, and on their terms. To learn more about the different types of trusts, as well as trust-based estate planning, schedule a free consultation with the Dudeck Law Firm today!