An estate consists of personal belongings of value, real estate holdings, cash, stocks and bonds, automobiles or vehicles, boats, businesses and/or corporations, patents, copyrights and other possessions/assets make up that person's estate. An estate can be worth any amount of value. This estate is inherited by the "beneficiaries". Beneficiaries can be anyone, such as relatives, friends or business partners, charities - Any entity that can benefit from the assets that are in the estate. (Leona Helmsley, the hotel chain heiress left her fortune to her dog!) However, in the absence of a will, probate court decides how the estate is handled and they government takes a huge amount of the estate!
An estate plan may also encompass various "powers of attorney". Power of attorney is how certain decisions about a person's health and medical care may be made by a designated person, which steps in to make decisions once the person is incapacitated mentally to make decisions financially, and medically. For example: Latter stages of Alzheimer's disease, or in a coma would be typical examples of a justified power of attorney to become active and executed.
NOTE: A durable power of attorney is an instrument that is similar to a living will except that it gives authority to a named individual to decide whether or not to begin or discontinue artificial life support.
Estate Planning is an essential task that everyone should initiate in advance. Preparation allows you to take advantage of the various estate planning instruments and the current laws that can be applied to your estate planning situation for both you and your family. The first step is to speak to an estate planning legal specialist and get a complimentary consultation.
Estate planning can consist of powers of attorney which vary legally from state-to-state. State and federal laws involving estate planning can become complicated. Be sure your attorney or legal specilalist enrolls in continuing legal education regarding any specialty.