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Your Estate Plan is a Three-Movement Sonata

Posted by Mary R. LaSota, Esquire in Durable Power of Attorney, Estate Plan, Health Care Directive, Will | 6 comments

You should consider your basic estate plan a three-movement sonata. Like a piece of music written for one or two instruments, your estate plan is written for you and your spouse (or partner). Sometimes your plan will have three documents, sometimes four or even more documents. Like the movements in a sonata, each document can be very different from each other in rhythm and in mood.

Think of your Will as the allegro movement, which sets the theme for your entire plan. In this movement, not only does your Will provide instructions on the distribution of your assets, but it also names the executors of your Will. The individuals you choose as your executors will manage the estate administration process, including the management of your assets and the payment of your debts. If you have minor children, then your Will may also establish a trust, which will not only alter the timing of the distribution of your assets, but may also limit those distributions for your children’s maintenance, support, education, health care. Don’t forget about your other beloved family members… your pets. You should make sure you have selected an individual who will care for them for the rest of their lives.

The middle movement, the Andante, is your durable power of attorney. In this document you appoint an agent to handle your financial affairs and make financial decisions on your part. This agent will step into your shoes if you are unable to do these things due to an accident, hospitalization or other reason. Without this document, a family member will need to petition the Orphan’s Court to be appointed your Conservator. Petitioning the Court is a costly and expensive procedure. This process can be avoided by simply making sure your durable power of attorney, or Andante, is composed.

The ending or closing movement, the Allegro, is your Health Care Directive, which designates a person to make your health care decisions for you. Without such a document, Pennsylvania law determines the person who will make medical decisions on your behalf. Sometimes that person may not be the person you want to make medical decisions for you. The Health Care Directive also authorizes your doctors and other health care providers to release medical information to your agent.

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