Modern estate planning is not a transaction; it is a process. It involves not only our clients but many generations. It allows our clients to care for their loved ones with resources, love and wisdom. It truly is "wealth counseling." Modern estate planning is not just something done to plan for death – it is planning for life, and life involves changes and uncertainties.
Typically the cornerstone of a modern estate plan is a revocable living trust, because a properly funded revocable living trust can avoid both the huge expense of guardianship if you become incapacitated and the expense and delays of probate when you die. But a revocable living trust plan is not an alarm clock– you can’t just "set it and forget it." Over time your assets change, your family members’ circumstances change, and the law changes. There is truth in the saying, "There is nothing as certain as change." Failure to fund a revocable living trust and keep it properly maintained is an almost sure fire way to end up in probate court.
The modern estate planning process, therefore, includes education, design, drafting of the documents, and implementation. Like traditional estate planning, modern estate planning includes medical directives. Today, those include a health care power of attorney, a living will, and a HIPAA authorization. For asset management if you become incapacitated, modern estate planning uses a revocable living trust, backed up by a durable power of attorney.
A living trust-centered estate plan plans for your disability, provides for your loved ones, contains your caring instructions, addresses your fears, and reflects your love and values. It can also avoid probate, is valid in every state, and is more private and confidential than a will. For all these reasons, a living trust-centered plan has become the centerpiece for modern estate planning.