Chipman Mazzucco Emerson LLC

Estate planning tools guard against the uncertainties of life

Financial experts say that even young Connecticut residents who enjoy robust good health should put at least a basic estate plan into place. Life is unpredictable, and unforeseen events like automobile accidents or serious illnesses can claim lives or leave individuals incapacitated and unable to manage their financial affairs or make important health care decisions. Those who wish to prepare for such unfortunate situations may be wise to draft a last will and testament, a durable power of attorney and a medical directive.

A last will and testament can prevent bitter disputes among heirs by establishing unambiguously how individuals wish their assets to be distributed after they pass away. When no will has been drafted and individuals die intestate, assets are distributed according to state law. In addition to a list of disbursements and other instructions, wills also name an executor who is responsible for administering disbursements and guiding the estate through the probate process.

Durable powers of attorneys and health care or medical directives are estate planning documents that become crucially important when individuals become incapacitated by injury or illness. Durable powers of attorney name individuals authorized to handle the financial affairs of an incapacitated person and health care directives ensure that medical treatment is administered according to their wishes. These directives may also set the parameters for when treatment should be terminated and life should be allowed to end.

Attorneys with experience in this area may suggest that their clients revisit wills, powers of attorney and health care directives regularly to ensure that they remain an accurate reflection of their wishes. Estate planning attorneys might also suggest using trusts when privacy is important or testators wish to have more control over how their estates are administered. Trusts avoid the public probate process and allow disbursements to be made at specific times. This could be a valuable advantage when heirs suffer from mental health or substance abuse problems or have been irresponsible with money in the past.

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