This is the process which involves the counsel of professional advisors who are familiar with your goals and concerns. It entails the transfer of property at death as well as a variety of other personal matters. The core document most often associated with this process is your Will. Other documents that are part of a well-established estate plan include a Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Proxy, a Living Will and any trust documents.
Clients with specific needs may also consider more complex plans that may include Special Need Trusts. Credit Shelter Trusts or Revocable Trusts.
The most important document in most Estate Plans is the Will. A Will states your preference as to what happens to your property after death. Even if you take measures to avoid probate (the process of adjudicating a Will), you still need a Will for the remaining assets.
A Will is also important not just to convey property, but for other matters such as choosing a guardian for your children or employing tax avoidance techniques.
However, a Will does not direct certain types of funds, such as those that are held jointly or where a beneficiary is named such as life insurance, 401k's, IRS's, Deferred Compensation or Trust property.
Health Care Proxy
The New York State Health Care Proxy Law allows you to appoint someone you trust - for example, a family member or close friend - to decide about medical treatment if you lose the ability to decide for yourself. You can appoint someone by signing a form called a Health Care Proxy. If you have not appointed a proxy then, under New York State law, there is no one who becomes the proxy by default.
Appointing an proxy lets you control your medical treatment by giving the person you select, your "health care agent," as little or as much authority as you want. You can allow your health care agent to decide about all health care options or only about certain treatments. You may also give your agent instructions that he or she has to follow. Your agent can then make sure that health care professionals follow your wishes. Hospitals, doctors and other health care providers must follow your agent's decisions as if they were your own.
In order for your agent to make health care decisions for you about matters involving life-sustaining treatment, such as resuscitation, the withholding of artificial ventilation, nutrition and hydration your agent must establish that the agent knows your wishes. The best way to establish this is to discuss your wishes with your agent and also to state those directives in a Living Will. Directives in Living Wills must be very specific, therefore, they are not flexible to changing conditions. Health Care Proxies are specifically authorized by New York Law while a Living Will is not. By executing both a Health Care Proxy and a Living Will you would give your chosen health care agent the ability to demonstrate your desires to the health care providers.