Wills and Trusts
Wills are legal documents created to ensure that a decedent is able to transfer their assets at their death to
their intended beneficiaries. Absent a Will, the Intestate Succession Act will control the disposition of a decedent’s assets. Wills also provide a means for parents with minor children to designate a Guardian for their minor child or children. This provides the Clerk of Superior Court with a strong guide as to whom to appoint as Guardian for a minor children left behind.
Trusts are legal documents which create a fiduciary relationship with respect to property, subjecting the party by whom the property is held to equitable duties to manage and deal with property for the benefit of another person (often called “beneficiary”). The fiduciary (often called “trustee”) has several legal
obligations in their management of the trust property (often called “corpus”) and can be held legally responsible for any misuse, abuse or mismanagement of the trust.
Power of Attorneys
"Durable" Power of Attorneys are legal documents which permit one or more persons to act for the grantor of the
power (often called “principle”) in case of subsequent physical or mental incapacity. The most common
power of attorney is called “durable” in that it lasts beyond the principal’s incapacity. Under traditional
common law rules, when a principle became incompetent, any power previously granted ended. Modern
statutory schemes have done away with this issue.
“Springing” Power of Attorneys serve the same purpose as a durable power of attorney, but does not become effective until the principle is declared incompetent. It then “springs” into effect and the powers granted become effective. This instrument is not favored in that it relies on cumbersome medical and legal proceedings to determine when the principle is incompetent.
Health Care Instruments
A Health Care Power of Attorney is a legal document that permits a person to designate an agent to make health care decisions for the principle if the principle’s attending physician or designated physician determines that the principle lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate his or her own health care decisions.
A "Living Will" (formally known as a Declaration of Desire for a Natural Death) is a legal document in which
the principle (often called the “declarant”) designates or “declares” their desires to a treating physician to
withhold or discontinue extraordinary means of life support or artificial nutrition and hydration if he or she
is determined to be terminally and incurably ill or in a persistent vegetative state or suffering from advanced fatal dementia.