Estate Planning Guide 2011: Where there's a will, there's a way

Monday, March 7, 2011

In the movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," as the children line up to sign a suspicious looking contract, little Mike Teavee comments, "Saw this in a movie once. Guy signed his wife's insurance policy. Then he bumped her off." Wonka responds, "Clever."

While the topic of estate planning is often a punchline, it is something everyone needs to seriously think about. Because the terms involved are sometimes as confusing as a list of Mr. Wonka's creations, you might want to keep handy the following list of definitions provided by Curt Poore, an attorney with The Limbaugh Firm in Cape Girardeau.

A WILL is a document in which a person makes a disposition of his or her property, to take effect after death.

A LIVING WILL is a document that expresses a person's intentions as to whether they receive life-sustaining treatment or whether certain medical treatment is to be withheld or withdrawn under certain circumstances. Living wills are given operative effect only if the declarant's condition is determined to be terminal and the declarant is not able to make treatment decisions.

A HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY gives someone the authority to act on your behalf in making decisions concerning medical care and life-sustaining treatment.

A POWER OF ATTORNEY is a document authorizing another to act as one's agent or attorney.

A TRUST is a document whereby property is transferred with the intention that it be administered by a trustee for another's benefit. The trustee has a duty to deal with the property for the benefit of that person. There are many types of trusts.

A LETTER OF INSTRUCTION (also known as a letter of intent) is prepared by a will maker (testator) and provides information to a person's heirs or survivors that they may require after his or her death. It is not a legal instrument.

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