Your family relationships can and should be a source of great joy. We want to help you create, maintain and manage those relationships so that you can get the most happiness possible from them. When families suffer through an illness or death, however, these relationships can become strained, even in families that already enjoy strong relationships. Disagreements about issues such as final wishes, distribution of assets, or proper medical care are just some of the issues that can arise.

Setting up a solid estate plan now can prevent such stress from coming between family members, and outline your exact wishes while you are healthy and of sound mind so that there is no question of your wishes. An estate plan may contain one or more of the following documents:

Wills

A will (or Last Will and Testament) is a document through which a person (known as the testator) determines his or her wishes of the rights of others over property, financial assets, or family members following the testator’s passing. Some people feel that a will is unnecessary, particularly for someone who does not hold a great deal of assets. To the contrary, however, it is extremely important for a people with even very small estates to take advantage of estate planning techniques available to them. A failure to establish a will as part of an effective estate plan could lead to the wasting of any limited assets which may be available. Wills also provide for the care ofany minor children after the death of a parent or guardian.

Trusts

A will must be in place before a revocable trust can be established. A trust is often the best vehicle to preserve some or all of the assets of your estate, regardless of its size. A testamentary trust provides not only tax advantages, but may in some cases be more satisfactory than a guardianship of a minor’s estate. Unlike a guardianship, a trust can be drafted to continue for as much of the beneficiary’s life as you desire. Additionally, a trust permits you to precisely direct how you would like the assets in the trust to be applied. Trusts can be especially important if the assets are meant to benefit an elderly spouse, an ailing parent, an unstable adult, or a child whom you feel should not receive the assets right away or in one lump sum.

Living Wills

A living will is very different from a will. A living will is one type of advanced care directive, and authorizes someone whom you appoint to make decisions on making medical decisions for you if you become too ill to make your own decisions, are comatose, or are certain to perish. A living will allows you to end your life with dignity and on your own terms and protects your physician or hospital from liability for withdrawing or limiting extreme measures or life support.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a written document signed by one person granting another person (usually a spouse, a child, or close relative) the power to act in conducting business for the signer (or signatory). Powers of attorney are often used to conduct your personal business when you are physically or mentally incapable of doing so yourself. Two common powers of attorney are financial power of attorney and medical power of attorney. A person to whom you grant financial power of attorney can perform tasks for you in your name including (but not limited to) signing legal papers, checks, titles, deeds, or contracts, as well as handling bank accounts and other activities. A person to whom you grant medical power of attorney can perform tasks in your name such as making decisions about your medical care, whether you would choose to stay on life support, or requesting Last Rites or visits from members of the clergy. Like a living will, power of attorney is another form of an advanced care directive.

Health Care Surrogates

Similar to a person to whom you grant medical power of attorney, a health care surrogate a person to whom you legally grant the power to make medical decisions for your if you are ever in a situation in which you cannot do so yourself. Your health care surrogate can also specify what medical actions you would wish to be taken in particular situations involving your health care. Like a living will and power of attorney, a health care surrogate is also a type of advanced care directive.

Attorney Graham Norris and the associates of the Norris Law Group can help you navigate the sensitive issues related to drafting wills, trusts, and advanced care directives including living wills, power of attorney, and health care surrogates. We care committed to doing all we can to minimize any stress caused dealing with them so that your family relationships can be maintained. Contact our offices today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation to discuss your estate plan.