Wills and Estates Attorneys
If you want to create or modify your estate plan, contact the Law Offices of David L. Powell immediately. Our Arkansas wills and estates attorneys can guide you through the process and advise you about the elements of an estate plan that make sense for you. It’s crucial to protect your assets and family if something happens to you. A well-drafted estate plan can do that.
A common misconception is that estate planning is only for the elderly and wealthy. Many people think creating an estate plan is necessary when they’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness or after acquiring high-value assets. However, having an estate plan in place can benefit anyone in any financial situation. Even if you don’t have significant funds in your bank account, you should outline your final wishes, so your family doesn’t face the burden of having to make those decisions when you die.
At the Law Offices of David L. Powell, we understand that most people think planning for death is morbid. However, it’s a way to protect yourself and your family. It ensures not only that your assets transfer to your chosen beneficiaries upon your death but also directs your loved ones on what to do if you’re in a horrible accident and can’t speak for yourself. There won’t be any confusion about what you want to happen under specific circumstances when you have a valid and enforceable estate plan.
Our wills and estates attorneys in Farmington, AR, are ready to assist you with your estate plan. Whether you’re interested in discussing the available options or want to update an existing plan, you can count on us to provide the representation and guidance you need. Our team can walk you through every step and draft the appropriate documents for you.
Call the Law Offices of David L. Powell at 479-222-6773 for your free case evaluation today and learn more about our estate planning services.
Common Documents in Estate Planning
When you think about estate planning, you might picture millionaires with fancy cars, designer clothing, and expensive mansions. It’s not uncommon to assume an estate plan only makes sense for people with costly belongings and millions of dollars in the bank.
However, creating an estate plan is a good idea for everyone. It offers a sense of security for you and your loved ones. If you have a pet you want someone to adopt when you die or family heirlooms you want to pass down to your children, putting your wishes in writing will accomplish these goals. Instead of your surviving relatives guessing what your wishes might be, they’ll have some direction with the documents you leave behind.
The most common components of a comprehensive estate plan are below.
There is a major difference between a last will and testament and a living will. A last will and testament instructs the executor on distributing your estate when you pass away, while a living will outlines your medical preferences while you’re alive. You can benefit from having both in your estate plan.
Last Will and Testament
The testator is the person who drafts the will. Beneficiaries are the people the testator wants to leave their assets to. When you create a last will and testament, you leave instructions regarding how you want your estate to be managed when you die. It includes your chosen beneficiaries and may specify how you intend to transfer your assets to each one.
Assets are the belongings and property you own, such as:
- Real estate
- Stocks and bonds
- Personal items, such as jewelry
- Checking and savings accounts
- Collections, such as guns or fine art
- Motor vehicles
It’s critical to include your chosen beneficiaries by name in the will. If you don’t specifically name the people you want to receive your assets, disputes can arise within your family. Your heirs could take their case to court to get their hands on the property they believe they deserve. Deciding how to distribute your assets to each person before your death could prevent contentious courtroom battles among family members.
You should appoint an executor to settle your estate. This person is responsible for paying any debt you have at the time of your death out of the assets of the estate. The executor will also be responsible for paying estate taxes from the assets. They also ensure the proper transfer of assets and property to the designated beneficiaries.
A last will and testament can also identify the person or people you want to be the guardian for your minor children or adult dependents. Be sure to have a conversation with your chosen guardian in advance, so they understand their responsibilities.
A living will is a separate part of an estate plan. It’s similar to a last will and testament but provides a different type of protection. Instead of outlining your final wishes, it instructs how you want specific scenarios to be handled while you’re alive.
For example, if you get into a car accident and wind up in a coma, you can’t direct your healthcare team on the treatment you want or your preferences for end-of-life care. Your living will can include this necessary information so your loved ones can communicate your wishes to your healthcare providers.
Common elements of a living will include instructions about:
- Feeding tube
- Blood transfusion
- Medications and medical devices
- Organ and body donation
- Breathing tubes, ventilators, and other life-saving measures
- Do not resuscitate (DNR) order
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) authorizes your chosen agent to manage your affairs when you can’t. The POA goes into effect immediately after you sign it or when an event you specify happens, such as incapacitation.
Any adult who is at least 18 years old and mentally competent can be an agent. You should also choose someone you know you can trust to consider your best interests while making important decisions. This person is in charge of your medical care, finances, business, or other affairs and should be able to handle the responsibility.
Different types of POAs are available and serve various purposes. They include:
- Durable POA – A durable power of attorney takes effect at a future date. You can include conditions for when it begins, such as your incapacitation. That means the POA isn’t effective unless an illness or accident leaves you incapacitated. Your designated agent can then make decisions about your medical care if a healthcare professional deems you incompetent.
- Non-durable POA – A non-durable power of attorney is effective the moment you sign the document. Your chosen agent can act on your behalf for certain matters if you can’t be present. However, the agent’s authority over your affairs ends if you become incapacitated or die.
- Limited POA – A limited POA gives your agent limited authority over specific affairs. You can establish conditions that must exist for the agent to act on your behalf. For example, if you’re doing business overseas for an extended period, you can authorize the agent to handle business transactions in your absence.
- Springing POA – A springing power of attorney becomes effective if a medical provider declares you incompetent. Your agent will be responsible for managing your finances while you cannot make sound decisions.
- Medical POA – A medical power of attorney gives your agent the authority over decisions regarding your medical care. If you’re unconscious, incompetent, or unable to speak for yourself, the agent can advise your doctors about your preferred medical decisions.
- Financial POA – A financial POA gives your designated agent the power to make financial decisions under predetermined circumstances. The agent can pay your medical bills, access your bank accounts, and manage your real estate while you can’t communicate what you want.
- General POA – A general power of attorney covers a range of decisions the agent can make. You can instruct when it should go into effect and what your agent should do if you can’t handle your affairs yourself.
A grantor is a person who sets up a trust. The grantor has the authority to transfer assets into the trust until they die. After they pass, the assets could automatically transfer to named beneficiaries. A trust is a valuable part of estate planning because surviving heirs don’t have to go through probate to receive the property from the trust.
You must choose a trustee you know can handle distributing the assets according to your instructions. The trustee’s job is to ensure that the beneficiaries receive the assets you left to them. You can set up scheduled disbursements that the trustee will handle if you worry about how a beneficiary will spend your money or what they’ll do with your property. That means the beneficiary will only receive a predetermined amount of money every week, month, or year. If you have minor children, you can indicate at what age you would like them to have access to your assets.
The Fort Smith wills and estates attorneys of the Law Offices of David L. Powell can review your assets, finances, and other affairs to determine what you should include in your estate plan. You shouldn’t attempt to handle all of this yourself. You need an experienced legal team in your corner to ensure you draft everything correctly and avoid mistakes that could leave your family without the security you want for them.
Common Reasons to Update an Estate Plan
Certain events in a person’s life can require changing a current estate plan. Updating the documents is necessary for many reasons. For example, if you choose a beneficiary for a specific asset, but they pass away, you need to pick someone else.
Common life changes that might indicate it’s time to modify your estate plan include:
- Birth of a child
- Death of an heir
- Purchasing a new home
- Starting a new business
- Receiving an inheritance
- Moving to another state
- Marriage or divorce
- Acquiring new or high-value assets
At the Law Offices of David L. Powell, we understand the importance of keeping your estate plan up to date. Our Farmington will and estate attorneys can be there in the beginning, to help you create the initial documents and make any necessary changes throughout your life.
The Law Offices of David L. Powell has decades of experience representing clients in estate planning. We will tirelessly work on drafting your will, trust, and other documents to protect you, your assets, and your family. Our team has the skills and resources to handle any issues that arise while we’re creating or modifying your estate plan.
Call us right now at 479-222-6773 for your free case evaluation with one of our wills and estates attorneys in Fort Smith, AR.