Hilton Head Law FirmHilton Head Wills and Trust Law FirmHilton Head Real Estate Law FirmHilton Head Corporate Law FirmHilton Head Estate and Probate Law FirmHilton Head Law Firm


Hilton Head Law Firm


Life and Estate Planning

There are Five basic life and estate planning documents that assist in coping with (a) life issues when we are unable to handle them, and (b) issues that arise upon our death with respect to which we would want, and need, to provide input and guidance. They are: a Revocable Living Trust, a Last Will and Testament, a Living Will, a Health Care Power of Attorney, and a Durable General Power of Attorney.

REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST

A Revocable Living Trust is a trust you create during your lifetime. It exists as a separate entity during your lifetime and, if you wish, it can be made to continue after your death for the benefit of your spouse or your children. Trust assets are totally and exclusively under your control. The Revocable Living Trust provides all of the same benefits that a Will provides, including the same Estate Tax saving benefits, plus it provides two additional super-benefits.

1. First, whatever assets you put into the Trust during your lifetime avoid Probate – the goal is to put all of your assets into itl. By avoiding Probate, your assets are made available to your beneficiaries sooner (as there is no 8 month Probate waiting period), you avoid public disclosure of the assets in your Estate, you save Probate and legal expenses, and you spare your loved ones the stress of going through a Probate procedure at the time of your death.

2. Second, it provides a structure for the management of your financial affairs when you are unable to manage them, by someone you appoint (a Successor Trustee). Unlike your Attorney in Fact, your Successor Trustee must comply with your investment rules and your distribution requirements. Unlike your Attorney in Fact, your Successor Trustee is bound by the duties to you and your heirs which are established by the South Carolina Trust Code (to be loyal, invest prudently, control costs, and more).

Please review the attached Memorandum for a more detailed description of what a Revocable is and how it can benefit you and your heirs.

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

This document enables you to designate the beneficiaries of your estate, specify the bequests that they are to receive and the timing of distribution, and specify who is to manage the assets and the distribution as the Personal Representative of your estate. Without a valid Will, the law will specify who receives your assets and when they are to receive them, and the Probate Court will determine who is to serve as the Personal Representative of your estate; either or both determinations may not be to your liking. If you have minor children, it also provides the critical function of enabling you to designate guardians for your children in the event of your death. A Will signed in South Carolina can be probated without a formal Probate hearing in most cases, and there is no requirement to have the witnesses reaffirm the validity of the document. A Will signed in another State is valid in South Carolina only if it was property signed and witnessed in the State in which it was signed formal proof of its validity must be submitted to the South Carolina Probate Court, which requires locating a Witness to the Will and having him or her provide evidence before a Court appointed representative. It is therefore advisable for a person who moves to South Carolina to have an Attorney prepare a Codicil establishing the new residency and the applicability of South Carolina law; if any other changes are desired, it would be best to have a new Will prepared.

LIVING WILL AND HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY

These are documents created by the Legislature of the State of South Carolina and provide limited flexibility. While copies can be secured over the internet, most people find it helpful to have an attorney provide an explanation of the contents of the documents and the effect of the choices that the documents require. Both designate agents to act on your behalf with respect to medical issues when you are unable to do so and provide an expression of what you want your agent to do. The Living Will applies when you are being kept alive by artificial means or when it has been determined that you are near an inevitable death or are permanently unconscious. The Health Care Power of Attorney applies in other cases when medical decisions must be made on your behalf – for example, if you should suffer from mental incompetence or temporary unconsciousness.

DURABLE GENERAL POWER OF ATTORNEY

This document enables someone you designate to act on your behalf and make decisions regarding the general affairs of your life – management of assets, payment of bills, execution of legal documents, enforcement of legal rights, securing medical records, etc. It does not put any limitations upon the exercise of that authority or provide any guidance as to your wishes. Although of necessity a Durable General Power of Attorney must contain very broad powers, it also needs to be quite specific in a variety of areas, and most attorneys have developed a basic document which meets the needs of those who must rely on them and which also can be conformed to the specific needs of a client’s circumstances.

Should you desire additional information about any of the foregoing documents, please do not hesitate to call us or contact us by email. Questions are answered without charge, and Memos prepared by Mr. Wolf are available, free, upon request.

For every client we serve, we strive to assist with his or her estate planning in a timely, courteous, and professional manner, to provide caring, creative advice and guidance, and to provide documents that meet the needs and goals of our clients and the particular circumstances that apply to them, for a reasonable legal fee based upon the time we must spend on the matter and the expertise we offer. Client satisfaction is the highest priority of our practice.

More Info: A REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST