by: Estate and Elder Law Services
As you may know, Estate and Elder Law Services will be moving to a new office space on December 22, 2015. Our new office is at the corner of Route 48 and Centerville Road, and is commonly known as the Artisan’s Building. Our new address is 2961 Centerville Road, Suite 350, Wilmington, Delaware 19808.
We are energized by the idea of moving to new, fresh space and welcome the change in surroundings. Packing up all of our stuff, though, is not a welcome task. It’s amazing how one office can accumulate so much paper in the course of just a few years. As we have been boxing our files for the move, we have all said at least once that we need to organize the paperwork in our homes, as well. Is your paperwork at home the same way? Our office has a detailed filing system and our documents are backed up online, but most people do not have such an organized approach to their personal paperwork. Really, who has time?
But…what would happen if someone had to find important documents in your home? Would they be able to locate them? Have you told anyone how to access your estate planning documents in the event you become sick? More importantly, do you have a proper estate plan to rely upon if you become sick or incapacitated?
Most people assume that estate planning documents only deal with what happens AFTER you pass away. That is only a part of what they do. A proper estate plan also considers what would happen if you become sick or incapacitated.
A Durable Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive are documents that are effective when you are alive, but unable to act on your own behalf. By creating these documents, you appoint an agent to handle your financial matters and medical decisions in the event that you are unable to handle them on your own. Who will pay your mortgage if you are in the hospital or an extended period of time? Who will make sure your taxes are filed if you are incapacitated?
The agent you appoint in your Durable Power of Attorney would be able to take on these tasks for you. Without these documents, you would need a legal guardian. The guardianship process can be long and expensive, and better off avoided by proper planning.
A Revocable Trust can also be used to plan for incapacity. I like to use the car comparison when discussing Trust Agreements. When you sign a Trust, it’s almost as if you are buying a car (but much, much less expensive). When you put assets in your Trust, picture yourself filling your car up with gas. A car without gas will get you nowhere. A Trust without assets will get you just as far. Your Trust needs to be filled with your assets to do what it is supposed to do. When you create a Trust with us, we advise you which assets you should put in your Trust.
Additionally, and most importantly, a Trust Agreement can name a chauffeur for you in the event you can no longer drive your car. When you create a Trust, you serve at the Trustee during your lifetime and while you are healthy. You are driving your own car. You also name a successor Trustee, who will serve if you become incapacitated, pass away, or if you simply no longer wish to manage your assets. Put simply, you can give someone else control of the wheel at any time, who will continue to drive the car, but for your benefit. The successor Trustee does not need to rely on anything else but the Trust Agreement to take control. When a Revocable Living Trust, Durable Power of Attorney, and Advance Health Care Directive are created together, you have created a plan to carry you and your family through times of incapacity and sickness.
Creating a proper estate plan is only a part of the overall goal, you also need to tell your family members where to locate the documents if they need them. No more unorganized piles! We recommend keeping the documents in an area safe from water and fire, such as a fire proof safe. For your convenience, we are also able to scan your documents and place them on a zip drive, so that you can upload them to your computer or the cloud, as you see fit.
We would be happy to meet with you to discuss your estate planning needs. Contact us anytime!