Basics of Estate Planning:
ESTATE PLANNING is the process of deciding who will get your property and how you would like it transferred after your death. It also involves designating a guardian for young children and equally importantly, a representative to make financial (power of attorney) and medical decisions (health care agent) for you if you become incapacitated.
PROBATE is an official court proceeding in which the estate of the decedent is divided according to a will, if one exists, but if not according to what are called intestate succession laws if no will exists. It can occasionally be a lengthy process and involves a lot of paperwork, time, and is not free. In addition, the documents filed in a probate proceeding are a matter of public record, so some may wish to avoid public availability and viewing of their financial situation.
GUARDIANSHIP & CONSERVATORSHIP is the legal proceeding in Probate Court where a person is appointed to exercise some or all of the legal rights of the incapacitated person. The “Guardian” is appointed over the Ward’s person/well-being, and the “Conservator” is appointed over the Ward’s finances and property – often, but not always the same person.