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Wills, Trusts, and Power of Attorney

Seek the help of a committed Anchorage attorney to draft these important legal documents for you.

Wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents are probably things you didn’t think of when you were younger. But, they’re probably the most important things to think about for end of life planning.

You want to make sure every detail of these documents outline your specific wishes because they will have major implications for you and your family.

As you head into the final years of your life, it’s normal to contemplate many issues you may not have thought of before.  After all, when you’re young and building a future for you and your family, you’re not thinking about your mortality or where you want your assets to go when you pass away.

Nonetheless, in order to avoid chaos down the road, you need to plan now with the guidance of an Anchorage estate and elder law attorney.

Wills

Having a valid will is paramount in legally conveying your wishes concerning the distribution of your assets. A will can help expedite probate and avoid long delays in the Alaska courts. Most of all, it’ll help ensure that your wishes are honored.

Having a seasoned Anchorage attorney help you draw up a will helps you and your beneficiaries. First, it’ll give you peace of mind knowing that your loved ones are provided for. Secondly, it can help prevent strife within your family once you’re gone.

If you don’t have a will, there’s a good chance that a judge or the state will decide how your estate is divided rather than follow your wishes. Your heirs may not receive what they’re entitled to or they may have to spend a lot of time and money in court to settle your affairs.

It’s not unusual for family members to bicker amongst each other and become emotionally worn down when a will isn’t in place. Many relationships have been permanently damaged through long, drawn-out litigation that could have easily been prevented had a will been in place.

Obviously, it’s in your best interest as well as your that of your family’s for you to create a will while you are deemed of sound mind.

Before visiting an attorney, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who do you want to inherit your assets when you die?
  • Will your children be equal beneficiaries in your estate?
  • Do you have a special need’s adult child or spouse that requires special care that you want to provide for?
  • Do you want to include grandchildren or children from another marriage in your will?
  • Do you want to have any of your assets distributed to a charitable cause?
  • Once you’ve had a will drawn up, have you evaluated it from time to time to make sure that any provisions you’ve made are still valid? Circumstances can and do change and it’s best to do a full evaluation of your will as needed.

It’s important to note that Alaska law has certain provisions that must be adhered to and the law concerning these provisions is complicated.

For instance, your spouse is entitled to the elective share of your property, which is one-third of your non-probate and probate property. But there are other considerations as well.

This is why it’s important to seek the counsel of an attorney to learn more about your rights as well as any beneficiaries you want to be taken care of.

Trusts

In simple terms, a trust allows you to grant someone else ownership and control of your property or assets. The person you transfer ownership to is called a Trustee and the Trustee agrees to the conditions outlined in the agreement. Those conditions are set between you and the Trustee and it can be a revocable trust or an irrevocable trust.

The advantage of a revocable trust is that your estate doesn’t have to go through a long probate. But, your appointed Trustee can be careless with your assets and lose them altogether.

An irrevocable trust is a safer way to preserve your assets for your beneficiaries, although once you embark in an irrevocable trust, it can’t be changed.

There are various types of trusts that can be beneficial in many different ways. For instance, one type of trust can help to reduce income taxes and eliminate or reduce estate taxes. This can save potentially tens of thousands of dollars or more and keep more money in your estate.

Other Reasons You May Want to Consider a Trust

A trust is a good idea if you want your property or asset to be used in a certain way. For example, you may stipulate that a certain portion of your estate is used for medical care or even a college education.

You may not have full confidence in certain beneficiaries to manage their inheritance, so you may designate only a certain portion to be released at certain intervals.

If you plan to leave something to younger generations in the family, such as grandchildren, you may leave instructions that they must wait until they attain a certain age to receive their inheritance.

Setting up a trust is more complicated than drawing up a will. Any trust you have drawn up must be precise and allow for tax consequences. Again, because trusts are tedious matters, it’s best to consult a knowledgeable attorney who’s fully versed in estate matters.

Choosing a Trustee

Above all, you should trust the person you are considering as a Trustee. He or she should be adept in financial matters and care about respecting your wishes as well as fairness for your beneficiaries.

The Trustee can be a member of your family, a professional advisor, or a friend. Someone who knows the beneficiaries of your estate will be better able to serve your goals.

It’s also a good idea to choose a back-up in case your original Trustee can no longer fulfill the role.

Things to Consider When Establishing a Trust

There are a few considerations when establishing a trust. You’ll want to discuss the benefits and downfalls of them with your attorney.

  • Who will you name as beneficiaries of your trust and what amounts do you want them to receive?
  • Do you want to create a separate trust for all beneficiaries or a single trust?
  • Do you want to allow the Trustee to have full control or do you want them to follow your wishes exactly as you wish?
  • How will you plan for income and estate taxes?
  • Do you have a plan to protect your property from your beneficiaries’ creditors?

There are likely more considerations that our attorney can help with. Once we are familiar with your particular situation, we can offer more personalized advice.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is one of the most important topics in planning your estate. A power of attorney enables you to give legal authority to someone else to act as your agent in case you become incapacitated. And unlike what it sounds like, the agent doesn’t have to be an attorney at all. It can be your spouse, your grown child, or anyone you feel you can trust to make the best decisions for you.

Your designated agent or attorney manages your financial affairs if you’re rendered unable to do so, whether by a stroke or other medical condition. Ideally, you would choose someone that you’ve shared how you want your affairs handled under various circumstances.

A power of attorney can be a limited power of attorney or general power of attorney. A limited power of attorney is usually temporary and limits the functions of the person you designate. For instance, you may appoint someone to just sign checks so that bills may be paid.

Another type of power of attorney allows your appointed agent to have the same power as you. They can make any decision that would normally be left up to you.

A power of attorney can take effect immediately upon signing or it can be expressly written that it doesn’t take effect until and unless you’re incapacitated. In either case, it’s highly important that conditions are clearly written out in the document.

You may also want to consider a Health Care Power of Attorney. If you’re unable to communicate your wishes concerning your healthcare, it’s in your best interest to have a proxy who understands which actions or decisions you’d make under certain circumstances. Because there would likely be life or death decisions involved, you should choose someone you trust.

Talk to an attorney about designating a power of attorney sooner rather than later. You want to avoid being without one when the time comes that you need one.

Contact Our Anchorage Estate Law Office

We want to help you create a lasting legacy by helping you with these important decisions concerning your estate. We’ll make sure that your wishes are honored and that your loved ones are taken care of in the way that you want them to be.

Contact Wyatt & Butterfield, LLC for a consultation today. It’s crucial to talk to our Anchorage estate and elder law attorney about how wills, trusts, and a power of attorney can help you sleep better at night, knowing you and your family are fully protected.

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