- Last Will and Testament: A Will is used to provide for the distribution of assets at death. You will choose an executor, who has the responsibility to collect and distribute assets and to administer your estate. You may also have to appoint a guardian of minor children. If you have a Living Trust, the Will can distribute assets to the Trust according to its provisions. It is absolutely necessary for everyone to have a Will to provide for the orderly disposition of assets at death. A Will can also include special planning for certain circumstances: for example, a spouse who’s ill, or a spendthrift child.
- Revocable Living Trust: A Living Trust is a legal document that provides instructions for disposing of your assets at death. Unlike a Will, a Living Trust can avoid or reduce the probate process and costs, making the administration of an estate at death much simpler and uncomplicated for the heirs. You retain control of the assets in the trust because you are the manager (trustee) of the trust and you can do everything you could do before you placed the assets in the trust (such as buy and sell assets, and change or even cancel your trust). Nothing changes with respect to the assets in the trust but the names on the title. Having a Trust also keeps the details of your estate private. It can also protect dependents with special needs.
- Power of Attorney: A Power of Attorney is an authorization to act on someone else’s behalf in a legal or business matter. A Durable Power of Attorney continues in place even if you become incapacitated. In this situation, your loved one or trusted friend can take care of all of legal and financial matters on your behalf.
- Healthcare Directive: A Healthcare Directive is signed so that an agent that you appoint can make medical decisions on your behalf. Most of the time, if you are injured or suffer a sickness that requires hospitalization or medical care, the medical provider will require a Healthcare Directive. This is a necessity because you may become incapable of making decisions yourself; the agent then can step into your shoes and give authority to the medical provider to provide the medical treatment necessary. While none of us likes to think about being ill or incapacitated physically or mentally, having a document like this in place will assure that your wishes are being honored. A Healthcare Directive can also include an appointment of a Conservator, an agent who would be appointed by the probate court to act on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so.
- The administration and oversight of trusts and estates, including probating wills and the settlement of estates; overseeing testamentary and living trusts; determining title to real and personal property; and construing the meaning of wills and trusts.
- The administration and oversight of conservatorships, a person appointed by the Probate Court to oversee the financial or personal affairs of an adult.
While elder law often encompasses both estate planning and probate services, it also includes:
- Counseling clients regarding long-term care options and eligibility;
- Assistance with Title XIX/Medicaid applications;
- Drafting and execution of pooled trusts and special needs trusts;
- Drafting, reviewing and/or executing documents.