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Georgetown Estate Planning

BACKED BY YEARS OF EXPERIENCE

It is never a bad time to begin planning for the future. Many of us already take steps to prepare for what the future holds. Tracking investment accounts, purchasing life insurance policies, and automatic deposits into savings accounts all play a part in helping us create a secure tomorrow. But even the most forward-thinking among us can easily forget one of the most important aspects of preparing for the future: the estate plan.

Most Georgetown residents simply are not aware of the time and expense that can befall those who find themselves tasked with administering an estate. With probate cases in Georgetown averaging over one year to complete, the need for pre-planning becomes clear. Even small estate planning steps can alleviate much of the time and expense that so commonly plague disorganized estates. Of course, some people prefer to avoid the topic of estate planning and succession. This is understandable. Few enjoy thinking about what the world will be like after they are gone. However, sometimes it is necessary to confront these uncomfortable topics to ensure the interests of loved ones are protected.

We have provided a very brief overview of some key estate planning terms and concepts. Familiarizing oneself with those concepts is a great first step toward a more secure, better prepared future.

Estate Planning in Georgetown: The Basics

At its core, estate planning is the process by which one prepares his or her property for disposition in case of his or her death or incapacitation. An “estate” is the entirety of one’s assets and liabilities. Assuming no estate plan exists, all of your property will become the property of your estate upon your death. Similarly, any outstanding debts will become the debts of your estate. Estates can be vast, and can include a seemingly limitless variety of debts and assets, such as securities, intellectual property, insurance policies, promissory notes, and mortgages.

An estate plan allows you to decide how to divide your property. For example, many people choose to divide their property equally between their children. Another common choice is a favored charitable organization or educational institution. But estate planning is not only limited to who or how your property will be passed. You can also decide when your property will pass. Your instructions on the disposition of your property is called your “estate plan,” and it usually consists of a will, but can also contain other documents and strategies such a Power of Attorney or a trust.

Rather than being set in stone, forever unchangeable, estate plans can be amended to incorporate evolving goals or objectives. New circumstances, such as the birth of a child or a recent inheritance may give rise to issues that did not need to be addressed in a previous estate plan. Estate planners understand that things change and can work to ensure that any new goals are accurately reflected in an updated estate plan.

The Power of Attorney and Living Trusts

One of the most important tools in any estate plan is the Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney is a legal instrument that allows a person of your choosing to make decisions for you in the event that you become unable to make such decisions yourself. Due to medical advances over the last several decades, such as ventilators and other life support systems, the probability of becoming incapacitated before passing away has increased substantially. But this also means that some of us may, at some point, be alive but unable to make important decisions. A Power of Attorney lets you select a trusted confidante to make decisions in accord with your wishes if you become unable to make those decisions yourself.

The Living Trust and the Medical Power of Attorney are two documents that are routinely paired with a general Power of Attorney. These instruments operate in a similar way to a general Power of Attorney, but focus on medical decisions. With these two instruments, an individual can outline his or wishes for end-of-life care, permissions for the disclosure of medical information and other instructions.

Wills

In its most basic form, a will is a document that provides instructions on how to distribute one’s property in the event of his or her death. The will’s author, or testator, gives the instructions to the estate administrator, or executor, to distribute the assets of the testator according to his or her wishes.  The administration of a will occurs through a special court called “probate.” Dying without having dictated a will is called dying intestate. If an individual dies intestate, then the probate court will administer the deceased’s estate according to the state’s default rules, without regard to the (undeclared) preferences of the deceased. In order to avoid the state’s default rules from preempting one’s preferences, it’s imperative to have a will prepared before death.

Trusts

A trust can be another useful aspect of an estate plan. A trust is not a company, but rather, it is a fiduciary relationship between no less than three legal entities. A trust is created by a grantor, who directs the trust’s manager, or trustee, to manage the trust’s assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Unlike with a will, by which the testator retains legal title to all his or her property until death, the grantor of a trust must transfer legal title of all property that is deposited to the trust. In this way, the trust itself retains legal title to all of its assets. Trusts have become increasingly popular over the last few decades. This popularity is due to increased privacy, efficiency, and tax benefits. For most, however, a trust will only form one part of a comprehensive estate plan.

If you would like to explore the benefits of advanced estate planning, please consult our brief eBook here.

Contact a Georgetown Estate Planning Attorney for Help Today

If you are concerned that your estate plan no longer reflects the value of your property or your current goals, or if you have yet to create an estate plan, contact a Georgetown attorney at Kirker | Davis LLP to schedule a meeting with an attorney today.

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