What is a Last Will and Testament?


A list of final gifts and instructions. Unlike a trust, a Will must go through probate to be validated and the assets distributed. The “testator”, creator of the will, does not get to have long term control over the gifts.

Typically, if a trust is involved, the will simply “pours” everything not in the trust into the trust


What is a Durable Power of Attorney


A document where you choose somebody ahead of time to make financial and legal decisions in case of mental incapacity.


What is a Beneficiary Deed?


A deed executed now that passes your property at your death. Similar to payable on death for accounts, or transfer on death for car titles.


What is a Medical Power of Attorney?


Like a durable power of attorney, only for healthcare decisions.


What is an Advance Directive (Living Will)?


If the end is near and nobody is around to make decisions, this written document tells the doctors how you want to be treated. This document is used at times that you are no longer able to express your informed consent.

Without a document expressing your wishes, your family may end up in painful disputes over your care. Families are torn apart by the painful proceedings.


What is final disposition?

Let your personal representative know your final desires. Cremation vs. Burial, wake or no wake, viewing or not, where arrangements have been made, what songs and readings you want, etc.


What does an estate planner do?

An estate planner
Brings surety to an otherwise unsure future by turning tomorrow’s reactions into today’s action.
Foretells the future. She knows what your future without a plan can be. She knows what your future with a plan will be.
Protects your children from themselves and the legal system.
Protects you from the medico-legal system.
Enables you to safeguard your assets.
Allows your decisions to be heard and followed.
Empowers you


What are three estate planning items everybody should have?

An up to date will or trust
A durable power of attorney
Up to date beneficiary designations


What is a HIPAA Waiver/Medical Records Consent?



Sam was sick, really sick and had to be checked into the hospital. His significant other, Sade, was by his side all the time. Sam started running a fever and was delirious. Sade wanted to know what was going on, but the doctor couldn’t tell her. If only Sam had signed a HIPAA waiver.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) also contained language to make it harder to share mental and physical health information.
So, to be able to share medical information with other people, you have to sign a waiver.

Why? If you give somebody else the power to make medical decisions, they should probably be able to look at your chart and medical history so they can make better decisions.


What is a Beneficiary Designation?


This is the person, or trust, that is to receive the remainder of your assets in things like retirement accounts, stock accounts, pensions, IRAs, and life insurance.
You usually have to fill out some paperwork and return a signed copy to the company you have the asset with.


Where should I store my estate planning documents?



Sarah and John Smith did a great job of organizing their life and getting an excellent estate plan in place. They put the originals in a safety deposit box. But, they forgot to give access to their appointed personal representative. They also did not share where the key was. The personal representative could not get into the box to get the original will and trust so that the estate could be distributed. Nor could she get the original will to get the judge to order the box opened.

In a safe place. But what is a safe place?

First, it is somewhere your agents named in your power of attorney, trust, and will can find them. Your representative should know where the documents are and have access.

If they are kept in a safety deposit box, your representatives should have access and a key to the box.

If they are kept in your home, then make sure your representative knows where they are and how to get to them. If in your home, preferably in a fire proof box.