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  • F.A.Q.S

    Estate Planning

    What is a Will?

    A will – or a “last will and testament” – is a legal document that tells the probate court how you want your property distributed after you die, and who has the power and responsibility to wrap up your affairs. Through the probate process the court will give the “executor” of your will the authority to gather all of your property, pay any remaining creditors’ bills, and distribute your remaining property as you specify in your will.

    Because the will takes effect only after a court determined that it is a valid document, a judge must act before your executor can step in and manage your estate.

    What is a Living Will?

    A living will or directive to physicians directly informs your doctors that you do not want extraordinary medical measures taken, especially those that would cause you pain or discomfort, if those measures would only prolong the dying process. This document backs up your health care power of attorney. Anyone can deliver this document to your doctors if your agent under your health care power of attorney is unavailable to make health care decisions for you.

    What is a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney?

    Who will make decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself? Who will have the power to sign documents on your behalf, or make sure your bills get paid?

    Without a durable power of attorney, someone who is mentally incapacitated must be taken to guardianship or conservatorship court to have a decision maker named for them by a judge. A carefully written durable power of attorney will allow you to name someone you trust to make decisions for you if you become disabled to the point of no longer being able to make those decisions yourself.

    What is a Medical Power of Attorney?

    A medical power of attorney allows your trusted friend or family member to make medical treatment decisions for you if you are unable to communicate your wishes to doctors. Without one, you must have a guardian or “conservator” of your person appointed by the court before decisions can be made on your behalf.

    A medical power of attorney not only saves precious decision making time, but it also makes sure that the individual you trust the most has the power to make these most important decisions for you if you are unable to make the decisions on your own.

    What is a Declaration of Guardian?

    A declaration of guardian is used to appoint guardians of yourself and/or your estate and any successor guardians in the event you are found incompetant or incapacitated.  It also gives you the option to disqualify certain persons from being guardians.

    What is a HIPAA Release?

    The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) says, absent a written authorization from the patient, a health care provider or health care clearinghouse cannot disclose medical information to anyone other than the patient or the person appointed under state law to make health care decisions for the patient. The Regulations promulgated under HIPAA specifically authorize a HIPAA Authorization for release of this information to persons other than you or your personal representative. Thus, you should consider creating such an Authorization so that loved
    ones and others can access this information in addition to the personal representative.Planning Tip: Consider preparing a HIPAA Authorization for loved ones and others who potentially need access to your medical information if you become disabled. Your estate planning attorney can create such a HIPAA Authorization for you.

    What is a Gift by Living Donor Exhibit?

    Should you wish, this form is used to specify the body organs, tissues, or other body parts that you want to give upon your death.  You will be asked whether there are specific body parts you are willing to give, and the particular purposes for which the body parts can be used.