FIVE BASIC DOCUMENTS YOU SHOULD HAVE TO PROTECT YOUR ESTATE

 

Here are the five basic estate planning documents you should consider having in place to protect your estate:

 

Last Will and Testament. A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that becomes effective at the time of an individual's death and that provides for the transfer of an individual's assets to whomever one directs such assets. A Last Will and Testament has to be admitted to probate, a court-supervised procedure, that in many states can sometimes be a lengthy and expensive process depending upon the particular set of facts of each case. Even if you have a revocable living trust (discussed below), a Last Will and Testament is still necessary as a "backstop" and may provide guidance regarding guardianship of one's minor children.

 

Revocable Living Trust. A revocable living trust is another document that directs where an individual's assets pass to at their death. A revocable living trust provides two benefits that a Last Will and Testament does not: probate avoidance and incapacity planning.

 

A revocable living trust is simply a legal arrangement between three (3) people: the person creating the trust (known as the "grantor," "trustor" or "settlor"), the trustee (who takes legal title to the property) and the beneficiary for whom the trust is administered. In the case of "revocable living" trusts ("revocable" meaning it can be revoked, and "living" meaning it is created during the grantor's lifetime), the same person is typically the grantor, the trustee and the beneficiary. Even though one can continue to control the property as trustee, that same person no longer owns the property outright. This means that the successor trustee named in the trust agreement takes over automatically if one dies or becomes incapacitated.

 

A revocable living trust agreement operates only over those assets held in the name of the trustee, so if a grantor creates a trust but fails to transfer assets to it (known as "funding the trust"), it may not work as it was intended.

 

Statutory Durable Power of Attorney. Under a statutory durable power of attorney, an individual appoints another person (known as the "agent") to handle the assets on their behalf. It remains in effect after one becomes incapacitated and allows an individual's agent to handle the assets in the same ways an individual could, which means that an individual has to select their agent carefully.

 

Health Care Power of Attorney. Also known as a health care directive, this document also designates an agent on an individual's behalf, but, in this case, for the specific purpose of making day-to-day medical decisions for an individual when the individual is unable to do so.

 

Living Will. Not a will at all, a "living will" is a statement of intent regarding the life support measure an individual may want when they are unable to speak for themselves. It serves a different purpose than the health care power of attorney; the living will is a non-binding statement of intent, while the health care power of attorney appoints someone to make binding decisions for an individual.

 

A well thought-out estate plan deals not only with the disposition of an individual's assets at death, but also the care of oneself and an individual's wealth while living. Such a plan will incorporate many, if not all, of the documents described above.

 

For more information, please contact Robert E. Feiger at 972-450-7350 or rfeiger@fflawoffice.com.

 

 

5301 Spring Valley Rd.

Suite 200

Dallas, Texas 75254

972-788-1400

www.fflawoffice.com

       

ROBERT E. FEIGER

 

 

Robert E. Feiger practices in the areas of taxation, estate planning, and commercial transactions. He received a B.S.B.A. with final honors from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri in 1971, where  he graduated Beta Gamma Sigma; and his J.D., and L.L.M. in Taxation from Southern Methodist University School of Law in 1974 and 1995, respectively.

While at Southern Methodist University, Mr. Feiger was on the staff of the Southwestern Law Journal. He served as Staff Attorney for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission in the Division of Enforcement, in Washington D.C., 1974 through 1977, and as an Assistant General Counsel for Betz Laboratories, Inc., a publicly held company, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1977 through 1978. He currently serves as a member to the Advisory Council of The Dallas Foundation. He is admitted to the State Bar of Texas, and is also a member of the Tax Section of the State Bar of Texas. 

AREAS OF PRACTICE

 

Business Law; Securities; Tax: Business Entities; Trusts & Estates: Estate & Asset Preservation Planning; Trust & Estates: Probate & Estate Administration