The Smith Law Firm, PC

Estate Planning Overview


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One should periodically review their legal affairs to make sure they are in order. This can save one a lot of expense and time and reduce the stress and burdens on family and loved ones.

Some important legal planning issues involve Wills, Living Wills, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, Medicaid Planning.

A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint a person or organization to handle your affairs while you’re unavailable or unable to do so. The person or organization you appoint is referred to as an “Attorney-in-Fact” or “Agent.”

General Power of Attorney – authorizes your Agent to act on your behalf in a variety of different situations.

Special Power of Attorney – authorizes your Agent to act on your behalf in specific situations only.

Health Care Power of Attorney – allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you’re incapacitated.

“Durable” Power of Attorney -The general, special and health care powers of attorney can all be made “durable” by adding certain text to the document. This means that the document will remain in effect or take effect if you become mentally incompetent.

Under Iowa law, you can decide who receives your property by executing a valid will. A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death. If you don’t have a will, your property will be distributed intestate to your heirs. If you are married, this means your spouse will generally receive all of your property. (There is an exception to this rule if you have children from other marriages.) If you have no spouse, then your property will go to your children. If you have no spouse or children, then your property would go to other relatives.

An important issue is whether your estate must be probated. Estates must generally be probated to transfer property that is held solely in your name. For example, if your home is in your name alone, your estate would have to be probated to transfer the property. Probating an estate can be costly and time-consuming. There are a number of ways to avoid probate. For example, you can make your spouse or other party a joint tenant with right of survivorship on the deed to your home. You can name beneficiaries for your brokerage, IRA accounts and life insurance policies. For bank accounts, you can establish joint or payable-on-death accounts. A revocable living trust is another effective estate planning option that, if done properly, can avoid probate. Most options have advantages and disadvantages and you should discuss these issues with an estate planning attorney and a financial advisor.

Questions? Call our office for requesting an initial consultation at (515) 451-1260.

Information contained herein does not constitute legal advice and is only intended as general information. Every case is unique and one should contact a specific attorney regarding their particular situation.

The Smith Law Firm, PC

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