Estate planning is about deciding in advance who will be in control of what in the event of your incapacity or death. For example, if you are incapacitated, you will need someone that can make financial and medical decisions for you. Unless you want to have the courts involved, this is accomplished by having a successor Trustee set up in a revocable trust, a designated Power of Attorney agent and a Health Care Directive agent.

Revocable trusts serve many purposes. If you are incapacitated, it allows a successor Trustee you have pre-selected to step into your shoes and conduct trust business pretty much without a hitch. Some things they might do while you are incapacitated are to pay your bills and take care of you and your children financially. At death, your successor Trustee performs what we call Trust Administration, which is in basic terms the process of paying all of your debts and creditors and then distributing the remaining assets to your beneficiaries in the manner you desire.

The Power of Attorney agent listed in your Durable Power of Attorney document handles tax, financial and legal matters that fall outside the realm of your trust. Depending upon how the Power of Attorney is drafted, a Power of Attorney agent might hold the power to file your tax returns, execute a Disclaimer on your behalf, access your retirement accounts, file legal actions on your behalf, or even manage your digital assets (think gmail, Facebook or twitter accounts to name just a few). Most Power of Attorney documents are drafted to take effect upon declaration of your incapacity by a doctor, but some are drafted to take effect immediately after being signed. The later is more common when a life-threatening illness presents itself or we have an elderly person who needs assistance now.

The Advance Health Care Directive as we call it in California allows us to pick who will make decisions for us if we are unable to do so for ourselves, choose end-of-life decisions and opt in to being an organ donor. This too can be made to be effective immediately so that family members do not have to wait for an incapacity declaration to help make decisions for a loved one.

To learn more about Estate Planning, request a free copy of my book “Secrets of Great Estate Planning, Second Edition (2016)” click here: To schedule an estate planning design meeting with one of our attorneys, please call (760) 448-2220.