Estate Planning

Frances B. Granquist Frances B. Granquist

Many clients ask Attorney Frances B. Granquist do I really need an estate plan if I don’t have many assets. Her answer is always yes. Attorney Granquist has been practicing with The Pellegrino Law Firm for over 20 years and still cannot believe that so many people don’t have estate plans. She feels that anyone who wants to make decisions for themselves needs an estate plan and the plan should contain the following 5 documents:

1. Last Will and Testament, which is an instrument that directs how you wish your assets to be distributed after your death. If you die without a Will your assets will be distributed by way of the Connecticut Laws of Intestacy. If you die with no living, blood relatives, your assets will go to the State. If you have minor children, your Will is the legal document used to appoint a guardian for them.

2. Durable Power of Attorney is a document that appoints an agent, called an Attorney-In-Fact, to sign documents and perform acts on one’s behalf. The word “durable” indicates that it survives your subsequent disability or incompetence so it permits someone that you appoint to act on your behalf if you are not able.

3. Appointment of Conservator Contingent Upon Incapacity is the document where you choose a Conservator of one’s person and property to serve if you are certified by a Probate Court to be an incapable person. This document lets you decide, rather than the local Probate Judge, who should be in charge.

4. Document Concerning Health Care and Withholding or Withdrawal of Life Support is the document that replaces the old Living Will. This document expresses your wishes regarding the removal of life support systems. Without this document you would need a court order to withdraw life support systems.

5. Appointment of Health Care Representative is the document which designates a person to carry out your wishes concerning life support and other health care decisions.

In addition to these 5 documents Attorney Granquist suggests that many of her clients also have a 6th document which is a Trust. A trust can be created in your Will (called Testamentary Trust) or in a separate document while you are living (called Living Trust). Trusts may be revocable, which means you can change them, or irrevocable, which means they are set in stone and cannot be changed. Trusts are tools used to avoid Probate, reduce taxes and protect family members.

Attorney Granquist cautions people who attempt to prepare their own estate planning documents without an attorney’s advice because everyone’s situation is unique. If you must create your own documents please make certain you are using forms that are legal in Connecticut.