Wills, Trust and Probate Law
Probate is the court supervised process of proving the validity of a will and distributing property under the terms of the will or in accordance with a state’s intestacy law in the absence of a will. Wills are a writing specifying the beneficiaries who are to inherit the testator’s assets and naming a representative to administer the estate and be responsible for distributing the assets to the beneficiaries. Trusts are arrangements whereby property is legally owned and managed by an individual or corporate fiduciary as trustee for the benefit of another, called a beneficiary, who is the equitable owner of the property.
Estate Planning is a process involving the counsel of professional advisors who are familiar with your goals and concerns, your assets and how they are owned, and your family structure. It can involve the services of a variety of professionals, including your lawyer, accountant, financial planner, life insurance advisor, banker and broker.
Estate planning covers the transfer of property at death as well as a variety of other personal matters and may or may not involve tax planning. The core document most often associated with this process is your will.
Guardianships and Conservatorships
A Guardianship ("Guardian") is an individual or bank or trust company appointed by a court to act for a minor or incapacitated person (the “ward”). A guardian of the person is empowered to make personal decisions for the ward. A guardian of the property (also called a “committee”) manages the property of the ward.
A Conservatorship ("Conservator") is an individual or a corporate fiduciary appointed by a court to care for and manage the property of an incapacitated person, in the same way as a guardian cares for and manages the property of a minor.
Powers of attorney
Powers of Attorney (POA) is an authorization, by a written document, that one individual may act in another's place as agent or attorney-in-fact with respect to some or all legal and financial matters. The scope of authority granted is specified in the document and may be limited by statute in some states. A power of attorney terminates on the death of the person granting the power (unless “coupled with an interest”) and may terminate on the subsequent disability of the person granting the power (unless the power is “durable” under the instrument or state law).
Descriptions provided by the American Bar Association.