Estate Planning, either basic or more advanced, is an essential part of living. Too often, we tend to think of this type of activity only as it relates to our death, and in some cases tend to avoid discussing or considering these issues, sometimes until it is too late. The postponement of making appropriate plans can, and usually does, result in additional expense, delay in settling matters after the death of a loved one, and in some cases an increase in emotional distress at a time when such is certainly not needed.
The issues customarily involved in estate planning have to do with the passing of assets at the time of death to the persons or entities as desired by the decedent, being sure that one’s minor children are cared for, and where appropriate, subjecting one’s estate to as little estate taxation as possible. The basic tools for such are the Last Wills and Testaments (with or without Testamentary Trust provisions), Inter Vivos Revocable Trusts, and Irrevocable Trusts. Documents designed to assist during life include Limited Powers of Attorney, Durable Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Surrogate Designations, Declarations Declining Life-Prolonging Procedures (Living Wills) and Do Not Resuscitate Orders. The securing of the Do Not Resuscitate Order is a document which involves one’s Physician, as well as, at times, one’s Attorney. Durable Powers of Attorney and Durable Health Care Powers of Attorney prepared prior to 2005 should be updated due to changes in the law.