Your Estate Plan: An Overview


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What Makes a Great Personal Estate Plan?

Every great personal Estate Plan has two parts to it:

1. What I call the “Schiavo” Documents (i.e., the Advance Health Care Directives, Financial Powers of Attorney, etc.) that are used in the event of one’s incapacity, and…

2. Management and Distribution Documents (specifically the Living Trust) that is to be used in the event of incapacity or death.

Let’s talk a little bit about that first part, what I called the Schiavo Documents.  Do you remember that poor women Terri Schiavo; the one in Florida who was incapacitated while in a coma, and whose husband and parents battled over the control of her person for years?  That was an unfortunate and very costly experience.  I mean they battled in the Florida court system, the Federal Court system; even the US Congress got involved.  It was just a horrible spectacle that certainly could have been avoided had Mrs. Schiavo created her own Personal Estate Plan.  The only reason you and I had ever heard of her was because she had not.

So the first part of a good estate plan revolves around preparing for the possibility of  incapacity.


Incapacity is a serious risk that can lead to what is sometimes known as the Living Probate.

Image of incapacityBut why should you be concerned?  Well, as I previously mentioned,

– You are many times more likely to become incapacitated than die prematurely
– The potential for conflict is obvious – just look at what happened in the Schiavo case
– No one is authorized to act as the “decision maker”
– No direction is given, which can lead to substantial guilt
– Out of date documents can be ineffective at just the wrong time

So, how will you or the ones you love obtain the authority to take care of you or another should this problem arise? Well, there are two possibilities:

Image of probate noticeFirst: if you are on the Government Plan you will have to obtain authority to act by petitioning the Probate Court for a conservatorship over the incapacitated person. The problem with this process is that it is:

1. Time-Consuming
2. Expensive
3. Creates Delay
4. Cumbersome
5. A Public Process
6. Emotionally Trying

Image of estate planSecond: Create the documents needed to avoid the Probate Court, i.e., create your Personal Estate Plan, which will:

– Avoid ugly conflicts before they arise – Create a succession of decision makers – Eliminate Guilt – Avoid expensive court proceedings – Avoid delays and publicity – Provide authority to act when needed – Provide adequate instructions – Assure their availability 24/7 – 365 days a year no matter where in the world you are

Now, the documents required to avoid the need for Probate Court intervention are:

1. Your Durable Powers of Attorney for Healthcare, sometimes referred to as your Healthcare Directive
2. Your Durable Powers of Attorney for Financial Matters
3. Your HIPAA Directive
4. Your Living Will

Naturally you’ll want to make sure your documents are up to date and otherwise effective.

Now let’s talk a moment about the second part of any good Personal Estate Plan.  I’m speaking of the document that will provide for the proper management and distribution of your life’s work in accordance with your goals.  This document is generally called a Living Trust.


The Living Trust

– Plans for the possibility of you becoming incapacitated
– It plans for your loved ones upon your passing
– It avoids the probate process
– It will generally reflect your hopes, fears and values
– It is difficult to attack
– It is good in every state
– And will avoid UNNECESSARY estate tax


Now a great living trust will always have two fundamental components:


THE DEATH PLAN embodies the traditional living trust program most often seen. 

Essentially, the Death Plan incorporates the basic elements of probate avoidance and the elimination of unnecessary estate taxation, but that’s basically it.


THE LIFE PLAN adds additional protections most living trust programs do not have.

Image of umbrella protecting moneyThese important Life Plan elements include protection for your spouse, your children and your grandchildren against lawsuits, divorce, predators, bankruptcy, inadvertent disinheritance and more.


The second part of a good estate plan is preparing for the inevitability of death.  This includes the creation of your Living Trust for the management and distribution of assets to protect your spouse, children and grandchildren against creditors, lawsuits, divorce, predators, bankruptcy, inadvertent disinheritance, and more.  Our next video called Basics of Living Trusts discusses
how to use a Living Trust to avoid the dreaded Government Plan.
If we can answer any questions or provide a complimentary counseling session to discuss your specific needs, please contact us at 805-277-5020 or e-mail

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