Estate planning is the process of deciding how you want to arrange your affairs, and who you want to manage them, in the event of your disability or death.
If a time comes when you are not able to make decisions about your own financial affairs, about your health care, or about the day to day issues that require your attention, planning your estate permits you to designate in advance who you want to assume those responsibilities on your behalf. You will have given them guidance and instructions about how you want your affairs to be managed, and you can trust that they will take on this responsibility for as long as it may be necessary.
Estate planning also includes the preparation of instructions to your family about how you want your assets to be managed and distributed at the time of your death. By planning your estate, you can be sure that your family will know what to do. You will have left instructions on what assets should be distributed, how they should be distributed, and to whom they should be distributed. You may also have left instructions concerning assets that should be managed by one person for the benefit of another, instead of being distributed outright. This may be done to provide financial management assistance to a beneficiary, to preserve a beneficiary’s eligibility for public benefits, to protect a beneficiary from potential creditors, or to preserve family assets for the use of the family in generations to come. If there is a need to provide for a person under a disability, such as a child or grandchild, we can assist in developing an appropriate mechanism to properly provide for the disabled person without jeopardizing that person’s eligibility for critical benefit programs.
The most important part of estate planning is the thought and consideration that you invest in deciding what you want to do and how you want to do it. As professional estate planners, we can assist you in this process with information, advice and questions, so that the plan that is developed is one that will accomplish your goals. Once that fundamental work is done, we can prepare the appropriate documents to put your plans into effect.
These documents could include:
- a durable general power of attorney, to designate someone to manage your financial affairs in the event of your disability, or to assist in the management of your financial affairs at your direction;
- an advance medical directive, to provide guidance on your wishes concerning medical care and treatment, and to designate someone to articulate your wishes in the event that you are unable to do so for yourself;
- a HIPAA release authorization, to give permission to your medical providers to release information to those persons you designate;
- a last will and testament, to appoint a guardian for your minor children, to designate a person to manage your estate and see that your wishes are carried out, and to provide instructions for how your assets are to be managed and distributed;
- a trust, to provide for ongoing management of assets on behalf of your beneficiaries, and to make distributions according to the instructions that you provide.
If you have existing estate planning documents, we can review them with you to see if they reflect your current wishes. If documents were prepared in another state, we will also look to see whether changes should be made to comply with Virginia statutes and procedures.