Take Control of Your Assets
Estate planning involves wills, trusts, beneficiary designations, powers of appointment, property ownership (joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, tenancy in common, tenancy by the entirety), gift, and powers of attorney, specifically the durable financial power of attorney and the durable medical power of attorney. After widespread litigation and media coverage surrounding the Terri Schiavo case, virtually all estate planning attorneys now advise clients to also create a living will. Specific final arrangements, such as whether to be buried or cremated, can be specified in other documents. More sophisticated estate plans may even cover deferring or decreasing estate taxes or winding up a business.
Living Will vs. Durable Power of Attorney
Many people (and even some attorneys) confuse a living will with a durable medical power of attorney. A living will sets out directives concerning end of life decisions, whereas a durable power of attorney gives all medical decision making authority to an appointed individual upon incapacity, including end of life decisions. Some people have both a living will and a health care power of attorney. Some, who wish to give complete discretion to a loved one, including end of life decision, have only a health care power of attorney.
Estate planning gives you control over the disposition and taxation of your assets, To do without a plan is to turn over control of family assets to courts, state laws and the Internal Revenue Service. Not having a plan is folly.