At your death, a will serves as a road map telling your personal representative how to distribute your assets to other people or to a charity. Without a will, you are powerless over how your assets are distributed. Instead, the laws of the state where your residence is, the state in which you spend most of your time, register to vote and hold your driver’s license, determine how assets are divided.
Revocable Living Trust
A revocable intervivos or “living” trust is an important part of the estate plan of many people. Intervivos means “during life,” which is when the trust is established. Revocable means that the creator, also known as the grantor, of the trust can change the terms of the trust or revoke it completely during his or her lifetime. Assets in trust are not part of your will; they are transferred according to the instructions in the trust document.
Power of Attorney
A general power of attorney permits the holder of the power to act on behalf of another individual, the grantor, and lapses upon the grantor’s incompetence. A durable power of attorney survives the incompetence of the grantor and allows the holder of the power to act. This document can be used when a grantor lapses from competence to incompetence for periods of time.
Living Will or Health Care Proxy
By creating a living will, you can articulate your beliefs on life-sustaining measures. With a health care proxy, you can name a trusted individual to make health care decisions if you are unable to do so. The health care proxy is used only for medical purposes. Like a living will, the health care proxy states when life-support equipment should be disconnected and medical efforts should cease.