ESTATE PLANNING & ELDER LAW
Estate planning is the term used to describe the planning an individual does during his or her life to protect his or her assets in the event of an unforeseen illness or disability and death. Your estate plan will consist of a will or trust, healthcare power of attorney, living will, HIPAA authorization, and financial power of attorney. Additional documents may be necessary depending on your circumstances.
Will: The primary purpose of a Will is to transfer assets to those desired beneficiaries after your death. The Will allows you to nominate guardians for minor children and establish trusts to hold assets for beneficiaries until a triggering event (primarily an age that you are comfortable with that beneficiary receiving assets outright).
Trust: You can create a living trust to control your property while you are alive. Upon your death, a trust operates the same as a Will, but is a probate avoidance vehicle. There a variety of different trusts. Some trusts are utilized for loved ones with special needs to supplement his or her support. Others are utilized for Medicaid planning purposes.
Healthcare Power of Attorney: A healthcare power of attorney authorizes another person to make healthcare decisions for you when you are unable to make them. Not even your spouse or domestic partner can make healthcare decisions for you without a properly signed and executed health care power of attorney.
Living Will: A Living Will is a Wisconsin form consisting of three yes or no questions pertaining to feeding tubes and life sustaining procedures either being withheld or administered at end of life. Completing this document tells loved ones what your desires are and assists them with making difficult decisions.
HIPAA Authorization: A HIPAA Authorization simply ensures that your agents have access to your HIPAA protected health information. Not only does this assist your agent with making healthcare decisions, it also allows for your financial agent to ensure he or she can accurately monitor the financials behind your healthcare.
Financial Power of Attorney: A Financial Power of Attorney is a document wherein you give another person the authority to act on your behalf to manage your financial affairs. The authority may be general, giving the agent broad power to make decisions. Alternatively, the authority may be limited, giving the agent the power to do only one or more specific acts. Most financial powers of attorney are durable, which means the authority continues even if you become incapacitated and unable to act for yourself. You can make the power of attorney effective immediately or at some later date or event, such as when you are unable to manage your own affairs. Under most circumstances, a properly executed financial power of attorney avoids the need for a court-appointed guardian or conservator.
Elder Law falls under the realm of estate planning as it pertains to planning issues affecting the elderly population. The primary focus of Elder Law is to protect the client and his or her assets to ensure the best quality of life as the client ages.