While the majority of Toepfer at Law’s estate planning practice is attached to divorce cases (modifying existing plans to remove now ex-spouses as beneficiaries), we do offer estate planning services for non-divorce customers. Every Toepfer at Law estate plan is comprised of three basic documents:
Wills can serve a variety of purposes in addition to specifying where your possessions go after your death. Through your will, you can establish a testamentary trust, specify who will care for your minor children, and specify who will look after any money left to your children if they are not of age to care for themselves.
The will is the cornerstone of any estate plan, and a properly drafted one will relieve many headaches for your loved ones after your passing.
A power of attorney is a document that comes into play when a person is incapacitated but not dead. This document gives another person power to control your assets while you are incapacitated. They may use it to pay your bills, or to sell certain property of yours if your bank account does not have sufficient funds to pay bills that come up.
Outranked only by a will, this is probably the most important document you can draft to protect your personal interests.
Previously called Living Wills, advanced healthcare directives (AHCDs) leave instructions for doctors and loved ones regarding your medical care in the event you are incapacitated and unable to make such decisions for yourself. Many people think they do not need these documents, and will say things like, "Oh, my husband knows how I feel about extended life support." That's probably true, however, your husband may not know how his emotions will affect his decision making in an event where such life support is needed.
Having an AHCD not only spells out exactly what you want in various situations, so that your spouse and doctors don't have decisions to make, it takes that weight off their shoulders. While a will and power of attorney really exist to provide you with peace of mind, the true purpose of an AHCD is to provide peace of mind for your family.
More complex estate planning may involve trusts and other creative tax avoidance methods. These are not realistically an issue for couples with a net worth below seven figures.
The vast majority of people are well served by the three documents above, but if you happen to have more complex needs, Toepfer at Law will assess those needs and discuss whether we can adequately serve them or if we would recommend you speak to an estate planning specialist.