Thomas G. WitkopLaw Offices

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Estate Planning Terms
The essential reason for an estate plan is to exercise control over the distribution of your property when you die.

Estate Planning arranges a person's property and estate. It takes into account the laws of wills, taxes, insurance, property, and trusts so as to gain the maximum benefit of all laws while carrying out the person's own wishes for the disposition of property upon death.

It can also involve making arrangements for the care of children in the event of your death, planning for your own care in case you are unable to make decisions on your own, and taking steps to minimize probate court proceedings at your death.

Will. A will is a legal document that controls the distribution of a decedent's property according to that person's wishes. It enables a decedent to appoint a personal representative or executor to handle property and affairs from the time of death until the estate is settled. Property distributed under the terms of the will become the probate estate. Without a valid will, the probate estate will be distributed according to a formula under state laws.

Trusts. A trust is a legal relationship among a Trustor, a Trustee, and one or more beneficiaries. The Trustor is the person who establishes the trust by transferring legal title (ownership) of specific assets to the Trustee. The Trustee is then the legal owner of the property and has the duty to manage the trust property for the benefit of the beneficiary named in the trust agreement or provision in a person's will. The Trustee must follow the instructions in the Trust document. The trust beneficiary is entitled to the benefits of the trust and is usually an individual, but can be any other legal entity, such as a charitable institution.

Power of Attorney. A Durable Power of Attorney is an inexpensive, reliable legal document, in which you name someone who will make your financial decisions for you if you become unable to do so. Thus, as one grows older or faces the possibility of an incapacitating illness, individuals may put to rest their fear that they may be unable to pay bills, make bank deposits, watch over investiments, or collect insurance and government benefits. This document needs to be in place prior to any incapacitating event.

Health Care Directive. In a Health Care Directive, a person can set out wishes concerning what life-prolonging treatment should be provided or withheld if they become unable to communicate those wishes. This is the only way for patients to ensure their wishes override a doctor's general duty, and religious, philosophical, and economic underpinnings of the healthcare institution.

The content of this website has been prepared by the Law Offices of Thomas G. Witkop for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. The information presented here is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Online readers and Internet users should not act upon this information without first consulting Criminal Defense Attorney Thomas G. Witkop or another attorney.