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What is an “Estate Plan”?

November 11Estate Planning

Estate planning usually consists of a few different documents that have different purposes. Estate plans can become complicated, depending upon the types of assets you have and what you want done with them.

A common estate plan includes the following documents:

  • Will
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney
  • Living Will


A Will allows you to dispose of your property in the manner you choose, and it is only activated when you pass away. In your Will, you name your beneficiaries and your personal representative (commonly known as an “executor”). Your beneficiaries are the people who get your money.  Your personal representative is the person that will handle your estate after you pass away. Often included in your Will is a form “laundry list” where you can list out personal items that you want to give to certain people (ex. specific children, family members, friends, etc.).

Wills often become more complicated based on the person’s family situation. Inclusion of “testamentary trusts” are common for families with minor children. Sometimes, potential beneficiaries are specifically excluded from a person’s Will and most Wills often include “remainder beneficiaries” in the event of the prior passing of the primary beneficiaries. Consulting with an estate planning attorney is advised to think through these and other issues within an estate plan.

Durable Power of Attorney

When you choose an agent within a Durable Power of Attorney, you are granting that person authority to make certain property and financial decisions for you.  This does not grant the person authority to make health care decisions. Importantly, Powers of Attorney expire when you pass away and they can be drafted to immediately empower your agent or to only become active when you are incapacitated. Once you are no longer incapacitated, a Durable Power of Attorney is no longer active.

Healthcare Power of Attorney 

This is very similar to a Durable Power of Attorney, except it grants authority to a person of your choosing to make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated. Healthcare Powers of Attorney are only active when you are incapacitated.

Living Will

A Living Will is similar to a “do not resuscitate” order or an advance healthcare directive.  In a Living Will, you authorize a health care provider to terminate treatment if you are in a permanent, unrecoverable condition.


These are just some simple descriptions of what can become truly complex documents to manage your assets and interests.  Additional estate planning documents such as living trusts can further the complexity of a potential estate plan.  To better understand estate planning and determine how to plan for your personal situation please contact the estate planning attorneys at Berkshire & Burmeister!

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