Attorney Gary Harris devotes a major portion of his law practice to the areas of estates, estate planning, drafting of trusts and estate administration. There are other powerful tools and planning techniques used in estate planning, among them are Trusts, Life Estate Deeds, Special Needs Trusts and Guardianships. For those of you with gas and oil royalties, you may also want to consider the formation of Limited Liability Companies (LLC's), Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP's) and Family Limited Partnerships (FLP's). If we can be of service to you, please contact us.
You have an estate! Most everyone does. An estate is comprised of everything you own, your car, furniture, personal possessions, jewelry, real estate, bank accounts, investments, life insurance, etc.
Estate planning is the act of making a plan in advance and naming beneficiaries you want to receive and an executor to manage your estate after you die. Attorney Harris believes that there are three basic documents that every person should have namely a Will, a Power of Attorney, and a Health Care Directive.
Wills are particularly important for young people who have children and wish to control or have a say in who would raise their children, in the event of an untimely death when their children are still minors. For older people it is important because they have accumulated wealth during their lifetime and it is important for them to be the determiners of who is to receive those assets upon their death.
•· Powers of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is an important document to have as one ages because it permits loved ones to step in to take care of legal and financial matters for the person who may become incapacitated either physically or mentally. It is a substantial savings to have the Power of Attorney drawn up; versus having to go through the entire process of having a guardian appointed for the person and property of a person who is disabled physically or mentally.
•· Health Care Directive
Health Care Directives are now extremely important for all people as these instruments enable all persons the right to appoint someone whom they trust to make medical decisions for them should they be physically or mentally incompetent, or otherwise in a position where they are unable to make decisions for themselves. Additionally, Health Care Directives give a person the right to have some say over whether heroic medical procedures should be performed when the quality of their life has dissipated to the point that they would not want to have been kept alive.
A trust is a legal entity that holds assets and survives a settlor's death in order to disperse the Trust's assets according to the trust document. A trust requires a trustee and must be funded by the settlor's assets. A Trust can be liquidated upon death or require beneficiaries to use the money for specific purposes, such as a home or college education. There can be language in the trust that permits only a certain percentage of the trust funds to be used annually. A trust may provide information about who will care for minor children and name the guardians for them as well as provide assets to be used for their care.
•· Special Needs Trusts
Special Needs Trusts are an important requirement for people who have family members with special needs. Many such parents are concerned about providing the extras for their children that are not provided by government benefits. Special Needs Trusts must be worded in a distinct and particular fashion to avoid disqualifying their loved one from the government entitlements to which they would otherwise be entitled.
A legal guardian is a person or persons appointed to take care and manage the person and property of someone else. Generally, legal guardians are appointed to take care of children and manage their property. However, guardians can also be appointed to care for individuals who are physically, mentally, or emotionally impaired. The Court supervises a legal guardian.
•· Life Estate Deeds
A life estate is where an individual owns all the rights and benefits of ownership in real property for the duration of their life, or the life of another, with the property going to a remainder person after the death of the life tenant.
•· Elder Law
The subject of elder law which has been popularized in the last ten or fifteen years has primarily arisen from the effort on the part of attorneys to lessen or avoid the application of the federal Medicaid rules and regulations. There are steps that may be taken to preserve assets for a non-institutionalized spouse and reduce the assets of a person who is about to enter into a nursing home.