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Commonly Used Terms For Estate Planning

What is a Will?

This document specifies how your assets and liabilities will be distributed at the time of death. It names an Independent Executor and alternates to serve without bond and with minimal court supervision. Probate is the legal process of proving the will in court, settling the estate, and distributing the assets.

What is a Living Trust?

This is a trust created while you are alive (hence the name “living” trust). A living trust is another way of specifying how your assets and liabilities will be distributed at your death. A living trust also allows you to name someone to manage your financial affairs if you are
incapacitated.

What is Statutory Durable Power of Attorney?

This document gives an individual authority to manage your financial affairs. It can be effective only if you become disabled or incapacitated or immediately upon signing. Medical Power of Attorney – This document designates the persons who will make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. This document does not become effective until you are incapacitated.

What is a Directive to Physicians?

This document is sometimes called a “living will” (not to be confused with the “living trust” discussed above). The Directive to Physicians allows you to decide in advance if you wish to have artificial measures used to sustain life when you are near death.

What is a Designation of Guardian in the Event of Later Need?

This document allows you to designate in advance who you would want for a guardian if you ever needed one. It also allows you to disqualify certain individuals from ever becoming guardian.

What is a HIPAA Authorization?

This document gives medical providers permission to release medical records to your medical agent even while you have capacity.

What is a Declaration of Appointment of Guardian for my Child in the Event of My Death or Incapacity?

This document allows you to appoint a guardian of your children in case you die or become incapacitated while they are minors. Usually parents designate the guardian to serve in the event of death in their Will. However, the Will takes effect only upon your death. This document is valuable because your preferred guardian can step in to serve if you become incapacitated but do not die.