Do You Need a Living Trust?

Jan 27, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Estate Planning, Trust Administration, Uncategorized

Many clients are confused about the role a living trust can play in their estate planning efforts. A trust is created so that assets or property can be moved to the trustee who’s named in the living trust. Many don’t like the idea of relinquishing ownership of their assets, but the benefits are worth consideration for many of those people. It’s not that you’re losing control of your property or assets, it’s still yours. You’re just covering the legal bases in case you become incapacitated or die unexpectedly.

So why would anyone put those dynamics in place? The reasons are many.

Bypassing Probate

We know that a living will covers the bases so that our survivors can avoid probate. If your assets aren’t owned by you, there’s no reason for probate. When you die, only the property that remains in your name must go through that process. It can be an extremely long process and will likely require a lot of paperwork to be filed with the local probate court. When that happens, it becomes public record, which isn’t attractive to most people – who wants their financial records to become public record? An inventory by the executor of that property must be taken and then that’s followed up with an appraisal, a settlement of debts with the proceeds of the property, a validation by the court and then the costs associated with the attorneys, executors and any court costs. Whatever remains is what’s distributed to your heirs.

Anyone who’s been through that process knows that it’s exhausting and in some cases, can take up to two years or longer. An overwhelmed court system keeps the variables firmly rooted. Perhaps the most traumatic is the absence of any privacy during an already difficult time. No doubt, a living trust is often preferred over the alternative.

Yes, You Do Need a Trust

Even if you believe your estate has little monetary value, you might be surprised that it’s required anyway. For instance, if you own property in another state or if you own artwork, an estate plan ensures it’s handed down per your requests. Each state has its own laws, so teaming with an experienced trust attorney can make all the difference, especially in New York.

Wills are also subject to probate but living trusts can be used to avoid estate taxes in some instances. They must be properly prepared and funded, which is why a qualified estate planning attorney is crucial. Not only that, but a lawyer can help ensure your named person is actually the one who oversees your assets should be come unable to do so.

Don’t assume, though, that your will won’t play a role in your estate planning efforts; in fact, it’s quite important and can help protect your assets that are traditionally covered in a trust. Consider it an extra layer of protection.

You will first want to schedule a consultation with a New York estate planning lawyer if you’ve not already done so. Once he knows the details, he can assist you as you maneuver through the legalities and then, once it’s behind you, you can rest easy knowing you’ve taken all of the necessary precautions to protect your loved ones.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

What is Probate in New York and is it Necessary?

Jan 24, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Probate

It’s not uncommon for there to be a bit of confusion when it comes to the legalities associated with probates, wills and estate planning. It can be overwhelming, especially when you’re either trying to deal with overload due to the massive amounts of information coming at you from a number of sources or if you can’t find a straight answer to the simplest questions.

You know it’s problematic when efforts are being made to simplify the probate process to a more uniform national standard. A perfect example: the Uniform Probate Code was established in 1969, but it was only adopted by 18 states. For those states, the rights of a surviving spouse are clearly outlined should there be a death without a will. Not only are there states that don’t have those specific characteristics, but these codes have been “substantially” updated at least ten times. There have been several calls for Congress to take action, though to date those calls have been largely ignored.

For most of our clients, the big question is whether probate is required. The second question we hear is if having a will eliminates the need for probate.

Defining Probate in New York

The goal of probate is to provide a uniform method of determining potential heirs, paying off any debts associated with the estate and then distributing any assets per the will, or absent of that, the New York laws. The inclusion of a will is important, but it doesn’t eliminate probate.

What gets the process moving is the filing of a petition with the New York Probate Court, or “Surrogate’s Court”. The petition is accompanied by a death certificate and a will if one exists. There’s a filing fee, which is determined based on the value of the estate.

Contested Wills

But what happens if the will is contested? That presents a host of added documentation,  investigation and processes. Speaking of wills, the absence of one can significantly affect the timeframe of concluding probate. The property and assets can’t be distributed until the courts are satisfied all of the proverbial bases are covered.

For instance, if a man dies while he’s away from home and let’s say he’s accompanied by a girlfriend. As the process begins, the girlfriend insists the deceased had no children – and certainly not a wife. But what happens if another woman comes forward a year later and citing that she was indeed his wife, but they’d been separated? Worse – what if two adult children come forward and say no one told them that their father had died? It’s not so far-fetched for a couple that’s no longer together, but still married, to not know one has died. Even if it’s not likely, it’s certainly possible. These are the scenarios the courts try to avoid. It can take months to satisfy the courts that every possible avenue has been considered.

Small Estates

For those whose estates in New York are less than $30,000, there exists the Small Estates Affidavit Program. Many find it easy to file online, however, that might not be the best route. An estate planning attorney can help with the details while navigating the endless requirements. While it’s generally an easier process, even it has its own logistics. One example has to do with real estate. This process is only made available to those who  did not own real estatet. It’s not designed to handle the distribution of these types of assets.

Finally, and before the will’s status is accepted, it goes to the county’s Surrogate Court where the person died. Once the court’s satisfied of its validity, it issues letters testamentary to the executor named in the will.

It makes sense, then, that most prefer the legal guidance a qualified estate planning lawyer can provide. We encourage anyone who’s concerned about the probate process in New York to give us a call.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

The Intimacy of Estate Planning

Jan 22, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Estate Planning

The last thing many people would equate to intimacy is estate planning. Just ask anyone who’s ever had to face reality after a terminal illness or devastating accident, they will tell you that things become very personal faster than you can say power of attorney. This week, we shed the logistics and focus on the ties that bind and the intimacy of estate planning.

Facing Mortality

Most of us realized long before we began preparing our will that we wouldn’t live forever. Whether that brutal fact (or sometimes not so brutal) hits us right smack dab in the middle of a proper midlife crisis or if it occurred to us as we watched our youngest child walk up to accept her college degree, forever isn’t an option when it comes to living.

Ideally, those realities are enough to prod us into our estate planning lawyer’s office to cover the legal bases. Specifically, that means our will, any necessary powers of attorney and trusts should take priority in our lives. In fact, the point could be argued that we have a responsibility to our families to keep these documents current.

Estate Planning Isn’t Only for the Wealthy

You’ve lived modestly, saved for retirement and played by the other rules financial analysts insist are crucial. Even then, many believe they don’t have the wealth to justify estate planning. Once you begin delving into your assets, it becomes clear that estate planning isn’t just for millionaires.

Remember the purpose of estate planning is to distribute assets among your beneficiaries. It’s also important for tax purposes and not to mention the avoidance of a lengthy probate process. The probate process will only affect assets in the deceased’s name. It doesn’t include joint property since that goes to the surviving owner. Those who die testate (with a will), the courts will simply acknowledge and properly file the will. Intestate, on the other hand, is when a will doesn’t exist; the courts then make the decisions applicable to state law. By memorializing your wishes, it can help prevent too many hurt feelings within your family – or at least minimize any suspicions of ulterior motives.

The Intimacy of Estate Planning

Before you begin the planning process or if you’re updating a will, it’s always a good idea to list your assets. Don’t forget to include property you own, retirement accounts, stocks, cash on hand, jewelry, antiques and life insurance policies; it simply provides perspective as you move forward. Also, you might want to start thinking about who will inherit your estate. This way, once you meet with your estate planning lawyer, you’re more likely to provide her with a complete snapshot, so to speak, of what your estate looks like.

Even as the tax laws change often – both on state and federal levels – those whose estates do not exceed $5 million don’t have to worry about federal estate taxes. Keep in mind, some states have their own estate taxes, again, this is something you’ll want to discuss with your estate planning lawyer.

It’s really important to cover these bases and put the wheels in motion that can save your family a lot of unnecessary stress. It’s challenging, of course, but because estate planning is very personal and intimate, the last thing you want to do is put this into a court’s hands to decide for you.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

The Conversation Project

Jan 20, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Advance Healthcare Directives, Wills and Trusts

A recent survey unveiled a few surprising mindsets in America and how we handle end of life matters. It’s being called “conversation disconnect” and it shows that 90 percent of us know we should have an end of life conversation with our loved ones, yet less than 30 percent of us have made that effort. The Conversation Project conducted the survey and as estate planning lawyers, we know all too well the awkwardness and uncertainty about discussing our final wishes with our family members. But we also know the importance of those talks.

Proper legal planning includes making those decisions relating to end of life realities. Living wills are important documents to have as they provide in detail your expectations and who you trust to ensure those expectations are met in your final days.

Ellen Goodman, Founder of The Conversation Project explains, “We have arrived at something of a sea change. Americans now overwhelmingly agree that it’s important to talk with our loved ones about how we want to live at the end of our days. Yet, we still find it hard to begin those conversations,” stated Ellen Goodman, Founder of The Conversation Project. “We need to close the gap so that people will die in the way they would choose.”

The reasons why so many Americans are hesitant about having those conversations might surprise you. One third of those surveyed say they’re too young to worry about death. Another 21 percent say they don’t want to make their loved ones feel uncomfortable. The discomfort factor for themselves accounts for another 20 percent of those surveyed. Many admitted to hoping someone else would bring the subject up and they also agreed that they’d welcome the opportunity provided they don’t have to start the conversation.

A living will can memorialize those wishes, but they don’t eliminate the need to let family members know that it exists and what it reveals. Along with that, a medical power of attorney should also be part of an estate plan. These too are often difficult to broach. This is what allows you to name someone you trust to make medical decisions if you’re unable to do so. Its challenges are found in the “what if” factor. Whomever you choose must be willing to adhere to your wishes. That person isn’t always shouldering the decision making, but rather, ensuring the decisions you’ve already made are honored. Of course, there are those times when he must decide for you – if, for instance, you’re in an accident.

We know how important these talks are. We also know the family anguish of not having a living will. In fact, meeting with your estate planning lawyer to update your living will and overall estate plan can be a great way to bring the subject up with your family. Those who did have such a conversation say they felt as though the burden wasn’t as heavy as it could have been. A full 63 percent say they were able to move forward with the tough choices when they know they were honoring a loved one’s request. Nearly 40 percent are confident that loved one passed at peace with his choices.

It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to ensure one’s values are respected when it comes to his end of life care in terms of what’s acceptable and what is not. According to Goodman, it’s a team effort and when everyone from estate planning lawyers to health care providers to the family can unite with a common interest of protecting the client/patient/family member, then everyone knows those wishes were honored.

If you’ve not yet included these important legal documents as part of your total estate plan, now’s the time to put the wheels in motion.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Special Needs Trusts in Hauppage NY: Its Role in Estate Planning

Jan 17, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Estate Planning

Special needs trusts in Hauppage NY – also referred to as supplemental needs trusts – are designed to provide clarity in one’s expectations when he’s disabled. It is sometimes used as part of a will; however, it’s always deemed part of a total estate plan.

These important documents allow one with a physical or mental disability – or one who has a chronic or terminal illness – to ensure his wishes are being met in terms of assets held in that trust. They’re also typically safe from inclusion when it comes to determining government benefits based on assets.

A few of those benefits might include SSI, or supplemental security income, Medicaid, various rehabilitation programs, housing and medicines. Typically, when the numbers are crunched, a person is deemed impoverished if his assets total less than $2,000.

Using Special Needs Trusts in Hauppage NY

The law dictates that a supplemental needs trust or special needs trusts should be used for needs that the government does not provide. When drafted correctly by an estate planning lawyer, these trusts will shine when the government does not provide complete coverage for the disabled person’s needs. If the trust cannot provide anything for that person, then the trust kicks in and covers those needs in their entirety. This applies to those covered under Medicare or Medicaid, as well.

Which brings us to another important point: the rules of Medicaid say these trusts may not be used for day to day expenses such as housing or food; however, they may be used to ensure a home is adequately prepared to meet the needs of the disabled person. An example would be wheelchair ramps. Interestingly enough, the food restriction does not apply to vacations, dinner parties or other entertainment where food is served. This is surprising to many people because they assume the trust is designed to cover their needs for survival only, when in fact, it can and should be used to bring enjoyment and new, positive experiences to the beneficiary.

When Wealth is Not an Issue

Many people also assume their wealth means they have no need for a special needs trust for a loved one. While that’s true in other trusts’ purposes, a special needs trust is focused squarely on the disabled person and his current and future lifestyle. The wealth a family has today may not be enough to provide for a disabled family member tomorrow.

Remember, the assets in the trust will not be counted as assets and therefore, won’t prevent future benefits and program qualifications. Perhaps more importantly, a trust is off limits to creditors and may not be seized. Even if the beneficiary is sued, the assets in the special needs trust remain untouchable.

What is dangerous, however, is to bypass the benefits of a special needs trust in lieu of placing the assets with a sibling, with the belief that sibling will always look after his disabled brother. Unfortunately, there are no shortage of scenarios that prove this is anything but wise. Siblings disagree – even as adults – and if that disagreement is deep enough, it can result in the adult child seeking revenge against his disabled brother or sister.

Even if you’re sure that will never happen, the person holding the funds could be sued or file bankruptcy – and any assets in his name are wide open for seizure – and it matters none if he explains those assets are earmarked for a disabled family member.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. To understand all of the intricacies associated with special needs trusts, it’s crucial you meet with your estate planning lawyer so that he can cover those bases in their entirety. When the future of a loved one is at stake, it’s time well spent.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Considering a DIY Will? Read Our Free Report First

Jan 15, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts

A lot of people automatically assume that they should use a last will when they are planning ahead for the future. Because expressing your final wishes can seem like a relatively simple and straightforward matter you may think that you can construct your own will.

In fact, there are a number of websites out there that make a business out of selling this notion to the public. They will provide you with a download or a worksheet for a fee. You fill in the blanks and you will ultimately have yourself a handy-dandy do-it-yourself last will.

Any legal expert would tell you to take pause before attempting to utilize one of these generic documents. There are a multitude of reasons why you should never attempt to go it alone when it comes to estate planning, and we describe them in detail in our free report.

We have prepared this report in an effort to warn people about the dangers of do-it-yourself estate planning. To obtain your copy of this valuable report take action right now. Click this link, complete the form, and access will be granted:

Nassau County Last Will Report

This report will certainly open your eyes when it comes to DIY legal documents. Estate planning involves arranging for the transfer of everything that you have earned throughout your life to those that are closest to you. It is not wise to risk it all via the utilization of a so-called one-size-fits-all last will that you download off the Internet.


The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Are There Disadvantages to a Power of Attorney in Garden City NY?

Jan 13, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Powers of Attorney

Even the best legal protections can sometimes come with risks. For the most part, the benefits of staying current with your legal affairs outweigh any risks. Still, the risks remain. We’re often asked what, if any, disadvantages there are to having a power of attorney in Garden City NY. In our efforts of remaining transparent with each and every one of our clients, it’s important they understand not only the benefits of a power of attorney, but the risks too.

First, we take a look at what exactly a power of attorney in Garden City NY is and why it’s important.

A basic power of attorney is simply a document that allows you to name another person to act on your behalf in certain legal and/or financial situations. It becomes a durable power of attorney should you become incompetent for any reason.

Possible Risks with a Power of Attorney

The first risk is found in the basic definition: some may question your competence at the time you put together your power of attorney. Often, these are family-driven and usually when emotions are already running high. While this alone shouldn’t result in any type of legal action, it can set up less than ideal family dynamics. It’s one reason why you should let your family members know your wishes now. If you become incapacitated at any time in the future, you’ve already put in place the foundation of your expectations. The power of attorney simply cements those expectations.

Another potential risk is found with banks and other financial entities. Some may question the documents and the way they’re drawn up; others may have a rule about older documents. Some may not want to honor the power of attorney after a specific period of time – sometimes as early as one year.

Too many times, the power of attorney is vague. This opens up opportunities for selfish motives by those whom you trusted at some point. It’s important that you revisit your choices surrounding your power of attorney. Your estate planning lawyer can provide important guidance in these efforts.

As you can see, the most likely risk is usually found outside legal dynamics. Your family members may have a difficult time coming to terms with what’s outlined in your power of attorney. Ideally, you’ll be able to voice those wishes so that they’re not overwhelmed with unexpected facts. That’s not always an option, though – which is exactly why a power of attorney is always encouraged by estate planning lawyers.

Do It Yourself Forms

Finally, there’s been some controversy over whether “do it yourself” forms found on the internet are enough. It’s important to understand that these “one size fits all” forms are often inadequate and can leave vulnerabilities that you can’t foresee. These just might be the biggest risks of all associated with powers of attorney. What works for one person might not be inadequate for another’s specific needs. Your best bet is to always secure a reputable and experienced estate planning lawyer. It’s where you true peace of mind comes from.

Is it time you put those documents into place? Give us a call. We’ll be happy to set up a consultation and explore your options. It’s always better to take a proactive stand instead of having your family reacting in a time of crisis.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Estate Planning in New York NY: End of Year Resolutions

Jan 10, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Estate Planning

Before we head into the always-busy holiday season, why not make a few end of year resolutions? Specifically, why not make a few legal and financial end of year resolutions? Here’s a check list of realistic goals you can set and easily meet before we ring in the new year.

Taking it Tax Free

Did you know you can give up to $13,000 to as many people as you wish every year? It’s true – and if your estate is big, you know how crucial it is to take advantage of estate tax reductions. Not only that, but any charitable gifts, tuition and medical expenses are unlimited. Married? If so, double those figures.

Estate Planning Revisions

Have you been putting off estate planning in New York NY? If you don’t have a game plan or if you haven’t reviewed your estate plan in a while, now’s the time to make it a priority. An estate planning attorney is the ideal partner since he knows the legal hurdles and red flags – and he can recommend options you might not know you have.

From estate divisions, power of attorney documents to financial planning, it’s an intricate network that’s only as good as your commitment, which is why an attorney will shoulder the details. Remember – you can change your estate plan should your needs change later.

Medical Matters

Documents that address medical considerations should have top priority. With new laws, including HIPPA regulations and stricter privacy laws, these decisions have taken on a new urgency for all of us. Securing a durable power of attorney for health care as well as proper HIPPA authorizations ensures your wishes are met should you become incapacitated for any reason. Without them, the potential for problems is almost certain.

Bringing Up Baby

Nothing is more important than our children. Who you choose as a guardian should it become necessary will affect their lives forever. People change and life can deal some brutal hands to guardians you might have chosen in the past. Your named guardian may have taken a path that you no longer agree with. That person may have moved away, become an addict or just may no longer be interested in the possibility of raising kids. Not naming a guardian isn’t an option, either, since the courts will decide. This is a decision you and your spouse should make. Review those documents and make necessary changes.

Just Checking

While not the most pleasant of conversation topics, you should still get your family together to discuss your estate plan. It’s important that they know where to find your will and other estate plan documents. It’s not necessary to go into a lot of detail, but just touch base so that you’re all on the same page.

Ensuring Insurance

Finally, pull all of your insurance policies and give them a review. Are you carrying enough homeowners insurance? What about life insurance policies? With the new healthcare laws going into effect, and especially with the disappointing rollout of Obamacare, don’t forget to check into how it affects your current policies.

Getting these legal bases covered can allow you and your family to move into the new year knowing you’ve done all you can to prepare for the future. Remember, your estate planning lawyer is there to help you find the right balance for your situation.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Speaking of End of Life Choices

Jan 08, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Advance Healthcare Directives, Powers of Attorney, Retirement Planning

It is incredibly difficult to raise the topic of end of life considerations. At some point, someone will have to broach the subject, even if Mom or Dad have already made all of the necessary arrangements. It’s far different than retirement topics; these conversations have to do with funeral and burial arrangements, do not resuscitate orders, powers of attorney for medical decisions – the really tough topics.

If you think about it and the mindset we’re in when we plan for retirement, it’s one of those long awaited rites of passage: we’re planning to spend more time on the lake, more time with grandchildren and more time enjoying those things we’ve spent our lives working for. When the topic shifts to what happens after retirement, that’s when adult children become a bit uncomfortable and for many, it’s a sad conversation and one they’d rather avoid as long as possible.

That said, if we can step outside our emotions long enough, we can then try to approach from a perspective of honor last wishes. For instance, it’s important to know what kind of extraordinary measures Dad is willing to undergo. There are terminal illnesses, the possibility of time (and a considerable amount) being spent on a ventilator and other issues that many simply don’t want to go through nor do they want to put their families through. With so many right to die cases making headlines these days, it’s an ideal reminder that a health care proxy, living will or medical directive can serve a powerful purpose.

Our elder care lawyers encourage us to speak with our families, to understand what various documents mean in our end of life choices and what the absence of them mean, too. But what exactly are they and how do they differ?

Medical Power of Attorney

Often referred to as health care powers of attorney, these are the legal documents that spell out in detail who you want to make medical decisions on your behalf. They’re absolutely crucial in any estate plan and they can provide all involved a certain peace of mind knowing you made the decision yourself ahead of time. As elder care lawyers, we know too well the heavy burden that’s placed on family members when these documents aren’t included in a person’s long term medical plan.

Remember, you can set this up so that it’s used only when you are unable to communicate your wishes.

Advance Medical Directive

Not to be confused with a medical power of attorney, these are the documents that allow others to speak with your doctor about your condition. The new healthcare privacy law known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, puts into place strict laws about what kind of information is released on a patient. Without these directives, your loved ones may not even be able to uncover from a doctor or nurse which hospital you’re at. This isn’t a drawn out legal document, but it’s important to have so that valuable time isn’t lost when loved ones are trying to reach you.

In fact, many lawyers will strongly encourage their clients to create an advance medical directive that specifically names those persons who are entitled to access to health care information about them.

Living Wills

Finally, your living will provides your wishes if you become terminally ill or are in a vegetative state and unable to speak for yourself. This document provides exactly what kind of life sustaining measures you want performed – and what you don’t want. You may revoke it or change it as you see fit. It too is different from the medical power of attorney and medical directives as its purpose is different.

While these documents are important, it still doesn’t make it easier to broach the topic, but what it can do is provide an opening for an honest conversation. It may be you begin by mentioning the fact you and your spouse are going to get your estate plan in order and then casually approach Mom or Dad with a question as to, “How can we find the information in order to honor your wishes, Dad?”

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Power of Attorney and Guardianship: Differentiating the Two

Jan 06, 2014  /  By: Saul Kobrick  /  Category: Incapacity Planning, Powers of Attorney

Did you know that a survey from 2011 showed most seniors and family members had put off estate planning because they were overwhelmed with the various legal terms? It’s human nature; we tend to avoid those things we don’t quite understand. Proof of that was revealed recently when my sweet husband kept “forgetting” to pick up baking powder at the grocery store. When he finally owned up to it and said he’d found baking powder and baking soda, instead of a quick text to me, he just opted to conveniently “forget” it. Of course, estate planning is more complicated with much more at stake than a red velvet cake. Still, getting those bases covered is absolutely crucial and the right attorney can help you move right through those murky waters. This week, we explore powers of attorney and guardianship. Their purposes may seem similar, but once you delve into it, you see they’re not created to serve the same purposes.

Defining the Legalities

A quick definition of these documents –

A guardianship is an order signed by a judge that allows an otherwise incapacitated person the benefit of someone else to help make those important decisions.

There are typically two kinds of powers of attorney. One is a financial power of attorney and it is a document that allows someone to make financial decisions on behalf of one who is incapacitated. This leaves the medical power of attorney, which accomplishes the same goal, but for medical decisions versus financial decisions.

A durable power of attorney may be classified as either limited or general. With a limited power of attorney, financial or medical, you can limit the the powers given to your named agent and when he can make decisions for you – such as if you were to become incapacitated. A general power of attorney allows someone to basically mirror your own rights. This person can make the same decisions for you at any time. Naturally, finding the right person, or “agent”, is crucial. It must be someone you trust.

Powers of attorney are typically cost efficient, especially when compared to the costs associated with a guardianship.
It doesn’t require any type of courtroom appearance, either. You simply memorialize the one you wish to make your decisions. You can revoke, provided you have the capacity to do so, at any time.

On the other hand, a judge must either choose the guardian or approve the guardian one has named. The ward (or the person whose well-being is being protected) must be incapacitated. In most instances, it’s the court that determines when a guardianship no longer serves its purpose.

Also, guardianships usually require medical reports and whomever is chosen as the guardian must be willing to provide answers to the courts about his or her charge. They must attend all of the hearings, and usually, they must obtain a bond. It’s up to the guardian to ensure applicable inventories are filed and they must provide accounting and receipts for any expenditures paid out each month for the ward. It’s easy to understand why the courts want to have a bit more say in making those decisions. Usually, it’s the elderly or young children who these legal dynamics affect most.

It is a bit confusing, but working with a trusted estate planning lawyer can ease the anxiety associated with most legal proceedings. Once you’ve covered those bases, you can get back to the business of living your life.

The Law Offices of Saul Kobrick, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.