I help people with modest estates (less than $1,500,000) provide for their families and loved ones after their death, and provide for themselves if they become incapacitated. I draft these documents:
o Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care
o Durable Powers of Attorney for financial management.
A WILL is a document that states your wishes for the disposition of your property after you die. After your death the court appoints an executor (a person you nominated) to gather the assets, pay the debts, and distribute your estate the way you wanted. The court oversees this process and makes certain that your estate is handled properly. Once you sign your Will you don't need to do anything else unless and until you change it. A Will is relatively inexpensive to have prepared.
A revocable TRUST (sometimes called a "living trust") is a document that not only states your wishes for the disposition of your property after you die, it also changes the way you hold title to and manage your property before you die. After you sign your Trust you will need to transfer title to your assets into it, and then make sure that any new assets you acquire are also transferred into it. The court will not oversee the disposition of your property after your death (unless one of your beneficiaries or creditors files a lawsuit). A Trust is more expensive to have prepared than a Will.
There seems to be a general notion that trusts are somehow better than wills and court probate proceedings. I do not subscribe to that view. Wills and trusts are neutral documents. They do some of the same things and they do some different things. Under some circumstances a will is the wisest choice, and in others a trust is the better one. Your decision about it should be based upon your particular circumstances.
A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE (sometimes called a "living will" although that term may refer to different documents in other states) is a document that states your wishes about end-of-life decisions should you become unable to make them for yourself when the time comes. You can also nominate the person you want the court to appoint as your conservator in the event that you become unable to take care of yourself but are not in a terminal condition.
A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT is a document in which you appoint someone else (your agent) to handle your financial affairs for you in the event that you become unable to take care of them yourself. You can also nominate the person you want the court to appoint as the conservator of your estate in the event that you are unable to take care of your financial affairs on a long-term permanent basis.