Estate Plans and Legal Directives – What Are Your Options?

by | Dec 21, 2020 | estate planning

estate plans and legal directives

If you are just getting started with the process of estate planning, you are probably wondering what your options are. You may already be familiar with some of the standard estate planning tools such as wills and trusts. However, many people are unaware of how legal directives can be used in estate planning and how beneficial they can be.

The attorneys at Galanti and Copenhaver can assist you with all of your estate planning needs. Whether you need to update existing estate plans or need to get started creating them, we can help. Our attorneys are well-versed in California estate laws and are here to help you reach your estate planning goals. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation and begin planning for your future.

What Is an Estate Plan?

An estate plan is a broad term that includes different legal documents that state who receives assets (and which assets they are to receive) from your estate when you die. The documents will also include the name of the person who is responsible for ensuring the estate plans are carried out, which can include a role called the executor of the estate or a trustee for any trusts included in your estate plans. Finally, estate plan documents also often name a person who is responsible for making financial and health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so for yourself due to injury, disease, or illness.

What Are Legal Directives?

Legal directives are documents included in estate planning that can establish what you would like to happen in the event you become incapacitated and cannot make important decisions for yourself. Since these directives include the designation of someone to act on your behalf in important matters, it is crucial to choose someone that you trust to carry out your wishes and ensure these decisions are made the way you would want them to be. 

It can also be a good idea to name another person as a backup agent to act on your behalf if your chosen agent is unable to do so. This simply provides some extra protection that these decisions will be made in accordance with your wishes. There are four main types of legal directives that are commonly included in estate plans.

Living Trust

You can use a living trust to designate where certain parts of your estate should go while you are alive. If you suffer an illness or become incapacitated in some way, the designated trustee will then take over. 

When you die, the assets of the trust will transfer to your chosen beneficiaries, allowing them to avoid the time and expense of probate court. A living trust can be a useful estate planning tool.

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Durable Financial Power of Attorney

Another type of legal directive to consider is the durable financial power of attorney. With this document, you can choose someone to manage your finances if you become medically unable to do so. 

The agent you have designated in the document will have the power to act on your behalf for any financial or legal situations in which you are unable to, while you are incapacitated in some way. These duties may include things like accessing and managing your assets and paying your bills and taxes. When you establish a durable financial power of attorney, you are able to have control over how much or how little power you want your agent to have over these matters.

Limited Power of Attorney

In some cases, you may also want to consider using a limited power of attorney. This legal document imposes specific limits on the powers of your named agent or representative. The power granted to the agent through the document can be limited to just one or more tasks—for example, handling the signing of documents on your behalf at a home closing.

Medical Care Directive

You can also opt to create a document that states your wishes regarding medical care in the event you are unable to make those decisions for yourself in the future. Another thing to consider is giving someone you trust the authority to make health-related decisions on your behalf if you cannot. These two documents can be combined into one legal document, called an advance healthcare directive. 

Including legal directives in your estate plans can be an important way to ensure that sensitive matters regarding your health and finances are handled appropriately if you are unable to make the decisions for yourself for some reason down the road. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you create legal directives and assist you with any other estate planning needs.