Organize your LegalLife™ Guide on Estate Planning and End of Life


Legal Life™ Estate Planning and End of Life Issues

The following are concepts to help individuals become familiar with some of the legal issues involving Estate Planning and End of Life.

What is a Will?

A will is a document that sets forth provisions such as who you wish to receive your property upon your death, who you wish to carry out the instructions in your will (executor or personal representative) and who you wish to care for dependent minor children in the event neither parent is available to provide such care (guardian). A will does not take effect until after your death. If you take the time to prepare a will or have a will prepared for you, your property will be transferred more quickly, and you may avoid unnecessary financial and tax burdens.

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a document that sets forth your wishes regarding healthcare you would or would not want to receive if you became terminally ill or unable to communicate for yourself. A living will may also be referred to as a healthcare declaration. A living will becomes effective when you provide it to your physician or healthcare provider and you become terminally ill or suffer permanent unconsciousness resulting in your incapacity to make healthcare decisions. A living will directs your physician and healthcare provider to follow your instructions regarding the use, continuation or withholding of life-sustaining medical or surgical procedures, as well as artificial nutrition and hydration. You may also use your living will to state your preferences regarding resuscitation, bodily organ and tissue or whole body donation, non-emergency surgery or elective medical procedures.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document which allows you to appoint another person to act as your agent to manage your health, property, financial and other affairs. A power of attorney can begin immediately or go into effect at some time in the future such as if you become incapacitated and can no longer make decisions over your affairs.

What is a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)?

A DNR order is an order that informs emergency personnel that you do not wish to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or other life support in a medical emergency when an ambulance is called. Other names for DNR orders include Out-of-Hospital DNR Orders and Comfort-Care-Only Orders.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement where one person or entity (the trustee) manages certain property or assets for the benefit of another person (the beneficiary) who actually owns legal title to the property or assets. Upon the death of the person who created the trust, the trust property is not subject to probate proceedings (the proceedings to determine the disposition of a deceased person's property at death), but passes according to the trust provisions as set up by the creator of the trust. Therefore, trusts are often used as replacements or supplements to a will in order to avoid the probate process, as well as lessen taxation. Trusts can have important estate tax, governmental assistance, probate and personal consequences, and should be drafted in coordination with a person's will. Trusts are useful estate planning options for persons with significant assets and/or persons who have young children or family members with special needs.

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