Estate Planning is a general term that describes a number of different services that are available to assist you in different ways. Below, you will find some of the Estate Planning Services I offer, and why they are important.
Advanced Healthcare Directives
New Mexico law recognizes an Advanced Healthcare Directive, which has two parts with very different functions.
The first part of the Advanced Healthcare Directive functions as a Power of Attorney for Healthcare. A Power of Attorney for healthcare allows you to designate an agent who is authorized to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated and are unable to make your own healthcare decisions. You can also designate successor agents who can make healthcare decisions for you in the event that your primary agent is unable to make healthcare decisions for you.
The second part of the Advanced Healthcare Directive allows you to state your wishes regarding your healthcare, to inform your agents of your wishes in the event that you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions. By completing this portion of the form, you can inform your agents whether you would like to remain on life support, whether you would like to receive pain medications, and whether you would like to donate some or all of your organs, among other important decisions.
Everyone should have an advanced healthcare directive. Having a directive provides guidance for anyone who might have to make healthcare decisions on your behalf and gives those people the authority to make the decisions for you. Providing specific instructions about your healthcare wishes prevents your agents from having to make difficult healthcare decisions without knowing what you would want if you could make the decision.
Your Last Will and Testament is a very important estate planning document. Your will allows you to select a person, or people, who will serve as your personal representative after you die. Your personal representative will be responsible for ensuring that any creditors you have are notified of your death, to pay any valid debts and taxes, and to ensure that your property is passed on to your heirs in the way you wanted your property distributed.
Your will can also nominate people to serve as guardians in the event that you die while you have minor children. Nominating people to serve as guardians in your will gives the people you want to care for your children priority for appointment as guardian by a court.
Your will can also help prevent conflict between your heirs after you die. Your will allows you to designate who will receive specific items of your personal property after you die. If you have personal property that has sentimental value to your heirs, specifying who will receive the property can prevent your heirs from arguing about who should get what.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives another person the ability to handle your financial affairs. A Power of Attorney is important because it allows another person to have access to your finances to pay your bills or manage your property. A Power of Attorney that is not durable is only valid while you have capacity to make your own financial decisions. If you become incapacitated for any reason, your Power of Attorney will no longer be valid.
A Durable Power of Attorney is a Power of Attorney that continues to be valid in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to control your own finances. Having a Durable Power of Attorney in place is very important because people generally only want to give others control of their finances in the event they can’t do it themselves. A Durable Power of Attorney can be drafted in a way that gives your agent the authority to control your finances only in the even that you are incapacitated and can’t do it yourself.
A Trust is a legal document that creates a separate legal entity that you can you transfer your property into. Trusts can be revocable, meaning they can be terminated, or irrevocable, meaning that they can’t be terminated after they are created. There are many different types of trusts, and every different type of trust has different purposes.
By far, the most common type of trust is the Revocable Living Trust. A Revocable living trust can be created by you during your life, and “funded” by transferring some or all of your property into the trust. There are many reasons to create a Revocable Living Trust, including avoiding probate, having greater control of your assets and their distribution at your death, and providing asset and creditor protection for your beneficiaries.
Not everybody needs to have a Trust, but there are reasons why even people who don’t really need a Trust might want one.
Probate is the process that occurs after your death, where a representative is appointed to administer your estate. You can learn more about the probate process here.