estate plan


stack of moneyWhile different individuals have different purposes for creating an estate plan, one of the most common purposes is to ensure that they can use their assets in time of need.  A Power of Attorney is a document that gives one or more persons the right to act on your behalf if you are unable to do, and is usually part of a comprehensive estate plan.

A Power of Attorney allows you to give as much or as little authority to your agents as you wish. The authority can range from the limited right of your agents to pay your bills, to a sweeping authority for your agents to be able to make any and all financial decisions.  Due to the scope of authorities that can be granted by a financial Power of Attorney, you must choose your agent carefully. Often, people choose a family member or close friend to be their agent, but you can choose anyone you trust with your financial decisions. If you are creating a Revocable Trust, it is prudent to keep in mind the ways in which a Power of Attorney can act in conjunction with, and also fill the gaps remaining from the Trust.

A Power of Attorney can be ‘springing,’ which means it becomes effective upon a triggering date or event, such as if you ever become incapacitated, or unable to make decisions for yourself.  You also have the option of creating a Durable Power of Attorney, which becomes active immediately and continues to remain active upon incapacity. This type of power of attorney is often used by individuals that need their agents to have authority to make financial decisions if they are abroad or otherwise unavailable to make their own financial decisions. A power of attorney expires at the time of the creator’s death.

Spouses can create a common Revocable Trust, but the powers granted in a Financial Power of Attorney are personal to each individual, and need to be separate for each spouse.


Solving the Mystery of Health Care Decisions as a Part of Your Estate Plan

Doctor with patient

A comprehensive estate plan should allow you to account for unexpected situations, including health care emergencies. The most common concern is if someone becomes unable to make competent decisions or care for oneself, and has not made arrangements in advance, who has the authority to make health care decisions for that person? There is a mechanism by which a court can appoint court-supervised conservator to manage your health care, be responsible for your care, and make health care decisions on your behalf.


Conservatorships have several benefits and drawbacks.  In certain cases, a conservatorship might be needed, and it is important to document a choice of conservator should that circumstance arise. However, the process of conservatorship can generally be avoided through a document called Advance Health Care Directive that allows you to name “attorney-in-fact” or “healthcare agents.”


Advance Health Care Directives (AHCD), also known as “Living Will” or “Health Care Power of Attorney’’ are a vital part of a comprehensive estate plan. An Advance Health Care Directive allows you to designate one or more persons to make health care decisions, if you are unable to do so yourself. You can also include your wishes for important health care decisions, such as life-sustaining treatment, instructions regarding specific medical treatments, or any medical treatments that you wish to withhold, organ donations, and dispositions of remains after death. Advance Health Care Directives are especially important if you have limited family members, or have very specific preferences for medical decisions.


If you are young and healthy, and feel that your choice of health care agents may change, it is helpful to keep in mind that you can revoke or amend your Advance Health Care DirectiveAn attorney can draft an Advance Health Care Directive for you, and can advise you about sharing the AHCD with your agents, alternate agents, doctors, family members etc


For specific questions regarding health care directives, please feel free to call us at (949) 486-6612.