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How to Make Durable Powers of Attorney Work Better

It’s tough enough when an older person refuses to name someone she trusts to make decisions for her when she can’t. If she develops a dementing illness (severe memory loss) -- a common occurrence for older people, especially as they age – no one will have the authority to pay her bills, hire care, get her groceries or otherwise protect her best interests. But even worse is if she names someone who doesn’t care about her, steals from her, or otherwise does a poor job. What can the people who care about her do?
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What is a Trust?

The basic estate planning trust is a revocable living trust. The trust instrument, a document which you sign before a notary, creates a new legal entity known as the trust. You are the Trustor (also known as Grantor or Settlor). The Trustor "funds the trust" which means you give property to trust. You also serve as the Trustee. The Trustee has full management power over the property in the trust. The trust is revocable which means that the Trustor can terminate the trust or can amend it at any time. In the trust you designate who serves as successor trustee if you are incapacitated or die. That person may step into your shoes and take care of your affairs for you if you are unable to do so.
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When is a Will Enough?

When the estate is very small (less than $100,000) and there is no real estate, a Will may be adequate. With a small estate involving a bank account and investment accounts, you can obtain “Designated Beneficiary” forms from the institution holding your money. The designated beneficiary form will direct the institution to distribute your money to your beneficiaries upon your death. Money in designated beneficiary accounts is not part of your probate estate and it does not have to be probated. With a little planning, an estate with no real estate, can completely avoid probate by the use of the designated beneficiary process.
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Why Engage in Estate Planning?

Estate planning involves the preparation of Wills and Trusts and other instruments that help manage your property when you are living and upon your death. The number one reason to engage in estate planning is to avoid dying intestate, i.e., without any directions for the distribution of your property. If you die intestate, the court will determine who your heirs are as defined by law and will order the distribution of your property accordingly. Estate planning empowers you to direct what property goes to whom upon your death.
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Elder Mediation: Can It Help Your Family?

Aging elders and adult children. Childhood wounds and adult conflicts. Can elder mediation help your family? Many families are discovering that it helped theirs.

Our families present our greatest opportunities for sharing love, for learning how to be responsible for others, and for becoming intellectually, emotionally and spiritually mature human beings. Yet as families are rarely conflict free, family interactions can sometimes feel like sandpaper on the heart.
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