When people refer to a “will” or “last will and testament”, almost everyone knows what this is. Simply, it’s a legal declaration (written) in which a person names one or more persons to manage his or her estate and provides for the distribution of property at death. The word “estate” however, is not easily understood by most people. It conjures up the rich and famous – not regular working people who don’t own yachts and large corporations. An “estate” can mean land and buildings – real property that used to only be associated with the wealthy. But it also means the net worth of a person at any point in time, whether they are alive or dead. It’s the total of that person’s assets or property of any kind (less liabilities or what they still owe). That silver belt buckle that you won at the 1952 rodeo could be the sum total of your entire estate. And if you want that belt buckle to go to a particular favorite grandson, it’s part of your estate that you want to “will” to him.
Everyone can benefit from a will and estate planning – unless you have absolutely nothing of value to your name. Properly drafting these documents according to your wishes can range from very simple (and affordable) to extremely complex depending on your situation. You may not have a large estate, but you do have ideas about your end of life care, or who can manage your finances if you become incapacitated. Your estate planning attorney should provide these documents as a regular part of the estate planning process.
Estate planning can protect you, your family, your business, and other assets in the event of your disability or death. It clarifies your wishes and keeps your family from having to guess at important decisions after you’re gone or disabled. It should be designed to meet your unique goals and circumstances and avoid conflict among your family members.
There are many elements to consider in drafting a plan that suits your goals. An experienced attorney is necessary in order to evaluate your situation and give you sound advice. The Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer possesses this expertise and can guide you through the process.
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Components of Estate Planning
Some of the components of estate planning can include:
- The Written Will – the heart of your plan, it determines how your property will be distributed upon death
- Living Trust – this vehicle allows you to transfer property (including money in bank accounts, real estate, personal property) into a “trust” while you are still living. You have control and can make changes while still alive. The distribution of your property and assets upon death is usually not subject to the New Mexico probate process.
- Healthcare Directives or “Living Wills” – This is essentially your advanced health care directive, your health care power of attorney, and any other designation of what type of care you will receive if you are ever incapacitated. It is a way to ensure that your health care and end of life wishes are carried out even if you cannot speak for yourself. Creating a health care directive is part of the complete estate planning process.
- Financial Powers of Attorney – This is an important component of your plan. You choose who will act on your behalf in the event you are disabled. Durable powers of attorney allow you to choose an agent to act on your behalf in the case of future incapacity or temporary absence. A durable power of attorney authorizes another person (your agent) to make financial decisions on your behalf. These can include transacting business, transferring real estate, or simply paying bills.
Durable powers of attorney are extremely useful estate planning tools, but must be used wisely. Your agent should always be chosen with care and consideration.
- Power of Attorney for Health Care or HIPAA Release — Every patient should have an agent, appointed under a Health Care Power of Attorney, who can assist and advocate for them when dealing with health care providers. Our attorneys can draft these documents and also assist you with Advance Directives, commonly known a “living wills” to direct your end of life decisions.