Creating an estate plan for the first time can be an intimidating endeavor given all the goals you may wish to consider and the numerous documents available to help you achieve those goals. A better understanding some of those documents may make the process a little less intimidating. With that in mind, the Nashua estate planning attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices explain some of the most commonly used estate planning documents.
Last Will and Testament
Most people use a Last Will and Testament as the foundation of their initial estate plan. Executing a Will ensures that you will not leave behind an intestate estate. Dying intestate means the state decides what happens to your estate assets using the state intestate succession laws. Instead, your Will allows you to make specific and/or general gifts to loved ones. In addition, your Will lets you appoint someone as the Executor of your estate. The Executor is responsible for overseeing the administration of your estate. Finally, your Will offers you the only opportunity you have to officially nominate a Guardian for your minor child should one ever be needed.
Trusts were once used predominantly by wealthy families to protect and pass down the family fortune. Today, however, trusts are commonly found in the average estate plan. A trust is a relationship where property is held by one party for the benefit of another party. A trust is created by the owner, also called a “Settlor”, “Trustor” or “Grantor” who transfers property to a Trustee. The Trustee holds that property for the trust’s beneficiaries. Trusts are broadly divided into two categories, testamentary and living trusts. A testamentary trust does not activate until after the death of the Settlor whereas a living trust takes effect as soon as all the trust agreement is in place and the trust is funded. A living trust can be further divided into revocable and irrevocable living trusts. A trust can help achieve a wide variety of estate planning goals and can even serve as the foundation of you estate plan if probate avoidance is desirable.
Although the primary focus of your estate plan will undoubtedly be to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you are gone; you should also ensure that your wishes are honored while you are still here during a period of incapacity. An advance directive helps you plan for that possibility. The State of New Hampshire recognizes two types of advance directives, including:
- New Hampshire Power of Attorney for Health Care– allows you to name someone as your Agent to make decisions about your health care, including decisions about life-sustaining treatments, if you can no longer speak for yourself. The power of attorney for health care is especially useful because it appoints someone to speak for you any time you are unable to make your own health care decisions, not only at the end of life.
- New Hampshire Declaration – this is New Hampshire’s version of a Living Will; however, it is limited to a statement that you want life-sustaining treatment withheld or withdrawn if you are near death or permanently unconscious.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney allows you to appoint someone as your Agent to act on your behalf in legal transactions. There are two types of power of attorney, general and limited. A general power of attorney (POA) gives your Agent almost unfettered authority to act on your behalf, meaning your Agent can engage in financial transactions on your behalf, enter into contracts in your name, and sell your assets. A limited POA, on the other hand, only gives your Agent the specific authority indicated in the POA agreement. If you make any POA durable it means that your Agent’s authority will survive your incapacity. If you make any POA durable it means that the authority you grant to your Agent will survive your incapacity.
Contact Nashua Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions about what documents you should include in your estate plan, contact the Nashua estate planning attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.