What is an Estate Plan?

Many people think an estate plan is simply a Last Will and Testament (“Will”).  In reality, an estate plan is exactly what it says.  How will you plan the handling of your property and affairs when you pass away.  While, this is mostly done in a will, there are several other documents that are equally important.  I’m going to lay out a short list of documents that everyone should have and give a brief explanation of what they are.

1.  Last Will and Testament (“Will”):  Generally, this document controls who takes your property when you pass away.  It also lays out several other important things, such as:  Who should be guardian of your children if both you and the other parent pass away?  Who should serve as guardian or trustee of any funds or property that you leave to a child under 18 years old?  Who should serve as executor of your estate?  Which and with what money should your final bills be paid?  Do you want to be buried or cremated and where?  There are many other issues that you can cover under your will, but these are some of the most important.  It is important that YOU address them, rather than letting the Georgia courts decide.

2.  Springing Durable Power of Attorney:  As most people know, a power of attorney appoints another person to act on your behalf as if they were you.  A special (or limited) power of attorney gives power to a person to do a certain type of act for you.  A general power of attorney gives the person the power to act as if they were you.  A power of attorney is Durable if it remains in effect even if you lose consciousness or become mentally incapacitated (such as in an automobile accident or Alzheimer’s Disease).  This is a very important instrument to have as part of your estate.  Many people are reluctant to give a general power of attorney while they are mentally capable of making their own decisions. This is a very wise precaution.  A way to plan for a disaster without giving someone immediate power is through a Springing Durable Power of Attorney.  This document is, as the name says, a Durable Power of Attorney that only becomes effective in the even that you become incapacitated.  In the event this unfortunate situation arises, the person holding the power of attorney will sign an attestation that you are incapacitated and get it notarized.  This can be drafted to require a doctor’s acknowledgement that you are indeed incapacitated.  In that event, the person has the power to act on your behalf.  This document is also efficient in that it does not expire like most powers of attorney.  It sits dormant and only becomes useful in the event of an unfortunate situation.

3.  Advance Health Directive:  This document is a Georgia Statutory Document that combines a Living Will and a Healthcare Power of Attorney.  This document allows you to designate someone (“Healthcare Agent”) who you would like to make medical decisions for you when you are incapacitated or unable to speak. Unlike the Springing Durable Power of Attorney, this document just addresses health care issues.  This is often your spouse or a close relative. The Health Care Directive can be used to indicate what decisions should be made regarding your health care.  This can include courses of treatment, taking blood, etc.  The living will portion allows you to indicate whether you want life prolonging procedures, like artificial respirators or feeding tubes.  You can also indicate your preferences on being an organ donor and who should handle your remains if you pass away.  This document addresses some of the most difficult questions that a family member can face when making decisions for a loved one.  It makes it much easier on the family, and can avoid many disputes within the family, if you indicate your preferences beforehand.

While there are other valuable estate planning instruments, such as living trusts, testamentary trusts, guardianships, etc., these are the ones that nearly everyone should have.

If you want to execute any one of these documents please visit   www.GAWillsOnline.com.  We are far different from the large legal document site, like Legalzoom.  We have a GA attorney drafting or reviewing all of your documents and discussing any issues with you along the way.  After preparing your documents we provide a detailed explanation of all of the provisions via telephone or web-cam. You work with your attorney on your own secure client page to execute your documents.  Best of all, you can maintain your client page that connects you to your personal attorney for future questions or legal needs.

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One Response to “What is an Estate Plan?”

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