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Frequently asked questions about Estate Planning PDF Print E-mail

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Frequently asked questions about Estate Planning:

A will is the legal document that outlines precisely how (and to whom) you want your assets to be distributed upon your death. It’s advisable to have a will to keep your estate from being distributed according to the laws of intestacy. Anyone over 18 years of age and of sound mind can make a will.

A living will is the legal document that specifies your wishes regarding health care decisions and life support in the event you are unable to communicate them yourself. It’s advisable to have a living will so you don’t burden loved ones with traumatizing end-of-life decisions for you – or cause family disputes that end up as long, financially and emotionally draining battles in probate court.

A living trust is a legal contract that transfers ownership (title) of a person’s assets to the trustee of the trust (often themselves), administering it for their own benefit and that of at least one other beneficiary. The advantages of a living trust are experienced by the surviving beneficiary/ies, such as: avoiding the formal probate process and public record, greater privacy and faster distribution of the assets.

What changes should trigger an update of your will and overall estate plan?

  • birth/adoption of a child or grandchild
  • death of a beneficiary, executor, guardian, trustee, power of attorney or health care representative
  • disability of a beneficiary – an inheritance from you may jeopardize a person’s ability to receive public benefits; a special needs trust would be needed
  • marriage/remarriage – your own or your child’s
  • divorce – your own or your child’s
  • moving to another state – to ensure compliance with any state-specific requirements
  • estate composition – if you have a significant financial gain or loss
  • business – starting, buying or selling a business, or any other changes
  • tax laws – a change in these may result in a change for you

We recommend that you review your legal documents and assets with an estate planning attorney at least every 5 years to keep current with the laws and your personal situation.

It means that someone called an “agent” or “attorney-in-fact” has been appointed to make legally binding decisions on behalf of another person (the “principal”). A power of attorney specifies exactly what powers the agent holds. This designation can be very helpful in avoiding probate court involvement, as well as unpleasant family disputes over control of finances and/or personal matters.

As of October 1, 2007, the Connecticut Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney does not include health care decisions. These issues are now managed by a health care representative (HCR).

A health care representative (HCR) makes an incapacitated person’s health care-related decisions. An HCR is an advocate with the written authority to make any and all health care decisions for a person incapable of communicating them – including end-of-life decisions regarding life support – based on what is known of the person’s wishes. The HCR must act in your best interests.

In Connecticut, an “advance directive” is the legal document that: 1) expresses your health care preferences if you are unable to communicate them yourself – your living will; and 2) appoints your health care representative to ensure your wishes are carried out.


Still have a question?

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Simply click here to Contact Us now or call 860.233.1281 (Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), Friday (8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.)

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Kearns & Kearns
1121 New Britain Avenue
West Hartford, CT 06110
Phone: 860.233.1281
Fax: 860.523.5774
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