A living trust, like a Will, indicates how you would like your assets managed and distributed upon your death.
A living trust, unlike a Will, also directs how your assets should be managed if you become disabled.
Probate is a process done in court that serves to transfer the assets of a deceased person to his or her beneficiaries under the Will, or heirs if there is no Will. The court determines whether the person's Will is valid, and if so a Personal Representative, or executor, is appointed by the court.
Advanced health care directives help ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event you cannot communicate. There are several types of directives, described below. It is important to talk about your advance directives with your family, your agent, and your medical providers, and to make sure that they understand your wishes. It’s also important to give them copies of the documents.
A durable health care power of attorney allows you to name one or more people who will make health care decisions on your behalf if you’re incapable of making decisions yourself. Your representative, called an agent, steps into your shoes and has the same power to make medical treatment choices you would have. If you wish, you can name co-agents, and you also can name successor agents if your first choice is unavailable or declines to accept appointment as an agent. Further, you can indicate your preferences for organ donation and your agent’s power to approve of an autopsy.
In a mental health care power of attorney, you designate a person or persons as your agent to appear with you in the unlikely event you become subject to a commitment proceeding. A health care power of attorney, living will and mental health care power of attorney are often executed in conjunction with an overall estate plan that also includes a living trust and a Will.