A will, also known as a last will and testament, is a legal document which leaves instructions on
how you want your property to pass after your death.
A will is also an important document because it can be used to name guardian(s) for your minor children, and trustee(s) for your minor children’s property. A will also can provide for your pets.
A trust agreement, most commonly known as a revocable living trust, is a different estate
planning tool to determine who will receive your property upon your death.
A trust is solely a financial document, so it cannot be used to name a guardian(s) for your minor children, but it does provide for ease of transfer of property to your heirs without the need for probate.
General Durable Powers of Attorney
A general durable power of attorney is a legal document whereby you grant authority to a person
(called an “agent”) to make financial and all non-medical or healthcare decisions on your behalf
should you be unable to make such decisions for yourself or are otherwise incapacitated.
Your agent essentially steps into your shoes and has the authority to pay your bills, manage your investments and other accounts, and take care of any other financial related issues.
Medical Durable Powers of Attorney
A medical durable power of attorney is a legal document whereby you grant authority to a person
(called an “agent”) to make virtually all medical or healthcare decisions on your behalf should
you be unable to make such decisions for yourself or are otherwise incapacitated.
The agent under a medical durable power of attorney is your representative for the purposes of healthcare decision-making including communicating with healthcare professionals and assuring you are receiving the medical care you need.
A living will, also known as an advanced directive, is a legal document which solely details your
wishes for your end of life decision making.
A living will is only used should you be in a persistent vegetative state or have a terminal condition. The living will states whether you would like life-sustaining procedures withheld or not, and directs whether you wish to receive artificial nutrition and hydration as your end of life approaches.
Declaration of Disposition of Last Remains
A declaration of disposition of last remains is a legal document which declares your preference
on whether you would like to be buried, cremated or arranged for by other means after you have
The declaration of disposition of last remains also instructs whether you would like a funeral, ceremony or other memorial service, and designates an individual, or individuals, to arrange for such ceremonial arrangements and adhere to your final resting wishes.
A beneficiary deed is a revocable deed that acts as a transfer on death deed of real estate.
You record the beneficiary deed with the clerk and recorder’s office, and when you pass, the ownership of your real estate automatically transfers to the individual or individuals named without the need for a full probate process. The named beneficiary under the beneficiary deed holds no rights to the real estate until you have passed. A beneficiary deed is revocable at any time prior to death and must be recorded prior to your death to be valid.
Non-Probate Asset Planning
Non-probate assets are specific types of property that do not go through the probate process but
instead pass directly to your heirs without court involvement.
Examples of non-probate assets include real property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, joint bank accounts, accounts with transfer-on-death or payable on death designations, assets owned by revocable living trusts, and contract owned assets such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, 401(k)s, IRAs or annuities which have a beneficiary or beneficiaries specifically designated.