Most Important Estate Planning Documents – for Now and Later

Assets which are in a trust do not have to go through the probate process. In theory, when you place your assets in your trust, the legal title is no longer vested in you as an individual, but in the trustee of the trust. As a result, when you die, no probate process is necessary to clear title to the property. Thus, the trust bypasses the will and the probate process entirely.

What is the first thing that leaps to most people’s minds when they think about estate planning? A Will. We’ve all seen the dramatic scenes in films of yesteryear: the reading of the Will. The truth of the matter is that the will is no longer the focal point of estate planning.

In order to be effective, a will must be admitted to probate. Probate is a process to clear title of property from the person who died to the people designated in the will. As with most legal processes, probate can be costly, time-consuming, and public. Assets that go through this probate process are a matter of public record, open to the prying eyes of nosey neighbors and relatives, as well as con artists.

Assets which are in a trust do not have to go through the probate process. In theory, when you place your assets in your trust, the legal title is no longer vested in you as an individual, but in the trustee of the trust. As a result, when you die, no probate process is necessary to clear title to the property. Thus, the trust bypasses the will and the probate process entirely. A “ Revocable Living Trust” is a trust, which is created while you are living, and which you can revoke or amend at any time. A well-drafted trust can be extremely flexible and can facilitate management of your assets while you are well, during a period of incapacity, and long after your death. While you are alive and well, you would be the trustee and manage the assets in your trust. Upon your incapacity or death, someone designated by you would take over as trustee and would manage the trust, making investment and distribution decisions in accordance with the instructions you set forth in the trust, providing continuity in asset management.

In a General Durable Power of Attorney, you appoint someone to make decisions for property not controlled by the trust. For example, your “agent” could file income tax returns for you, change beneficiary designations on life insurance and retirement plans, etc. The agent can also transfer any forgotten property into the trust. Again, this provides for a smoother transition during periods of incapacity.

In a Health Care Power of Attorney, you appoint someone to make medical decisions for you in the event you can no longer do so for yourself. A Living Will can be used to express wishes you have regarding life-prolonging measures. Organ donation and specific religious preferences, such as a blood transfusion, can be outlined in this document.

Federal laws and regulations have created privacy protections for your medical information. These laws are known as “HIPAA” (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Now physicians, hospitals, health insurers, and other “covered entities” must comply with strict rules or face fines and potential criminal penalties. Executing a Medical Authorization Form will allow those you want to have access to your medical information.

Finally, the will disposes of any property which remains titled in your name rather than the trust. The typical will simply is a “pourover” into the trust. The most important role of the will is the appointment of guardians for minor children.

_________________________________________________________________________

Attend One of Our Free Estate Planning Seminars

To find out how an estate planning attorney can help you join us for a free seminar. R.S.V.P at www.sinclairprosserlaw.com/seminars/ and don’t forget to download the free estate planning worksheet to focus your mind and prepare for the information that will be presented at the seminar.

UPCOMING SEMINARS:

CROFTON

Tuesday, July 24th

7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Crofton Country Club

ANNAPOLIS

Thursday, July 26th

7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Double Tree Hilton Annapolis

EDGEWATER

Friday, July 27th

10:00 – 11:30 a.m.

Historic LondonTown & Gardens Pavilion

BOWIE

Saturday, July 28th

10:00 – 11:30 a.m.

Comfort Inn

WALDORF

Tuesday, September 4th

10:00 – 11:30 a.m.

Hilton Garden Inn Waldorf

CROFTON

Wednesday, September 5th

7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Crofton Country Club

BOWIE

Thursday, September 6th

7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Comfort Inn

HUNTINGTOWN

Friday, September 7th

10:00 – 11:30 a.m.

The Hall at Huntingtown

ANNAPOLIS

Saturday, September 8th

10:00 – 11:30 a.m.

Double Tree Hilton Annapolis

Colleen Sinclair Prosser
Currently the owner and manager of SinclairProsser Law, Colleen has spent over a decade at the helm of a busy practice and steers her firm with a guiding hand. She brings a wealth of Estate Planning and Estate Administration experience to the direct involvement with the clients of SinclairProsser Law. She has served on the Board of Governors Education Committee of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, on the Board of Trustees for By Their Side, Lifelong Advocates for Marylanders with Developmental Disabilities and as a Board Member of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County.