Questions About Beneficiaries, Powers of Attorney, and More

Probate, Trusts & Estate Planning Representation

Over the years, I, Attorney James A. Zakasky, have noticed that many of my clients have similar concerns and questions. In fact, many of these questions are the main discussion of their free case evaluations. To better serve my clients, I have collected these commonly asked questions into a list and provided the answers below. I hope this page sheds some light on your legal matter.

Not sure about your options? Learn more below.

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  • What is an Advanced Health Care Directive? Why Do I need it?

    What is an Advanced Health Care Directive or AHCD?

    AHCD - Instructs the Hospital where you are being treated on how you want to be treated and cared for. Gives the power to an Agent to be your representitive and enforce your instructions legally. Without this document someone else will decide how you are treated and whether you will be removed from life support or not --- Please see case of Terry Schiavo

    An Advanced Health Care Directive:

    1. Designates an Agent that will enforce your rights while you’re under the care of a physician and are considered disabled and cannot communicate your treatment to your doctor or attending physician. Always choose a person that lives close by and is able to be at the hospital if you have an emergency and make sure to tell them. Your Life Cards that you carry should also be updated with your agent’s name and contact information and give access to health care professionals to your actual Advanced Health Care Directive.
    2. Duration – When does the power of the agent go into effect and when does it expire. The power usually goes into effect at the signing of the document and expires after the death of the individual. The directive from you is in effect whether your agent is there or not because the document itself instructs the attending professionals in how you wish to be treated. You really do not put the burden on your Agent they just do what you ask of them and make sure that it is carried out.
    3. Care Instructions -  this ranges from the type and facility of care that you will need such as assisted living or psychiatric care if you develop Alzheimer’s or some other disability. If you become unresponsive and you are on life support when is it okay to take you off and not resuscitate. This all has to do with the very famous Terry Shivo case where two sets of family legally battled over pulling the plug on life support. Again the clearer you can be then the easier it will be to just follow the instructions and not put the burden on to your agent.
    4. Medical Record Release information – Gives the power to your agent to release confidential information to care givers that will help them with your care.
    5. Pain Relief – Gives the power or non-power to administer pain relief so that you can be as comfortable as possible when going through a crisis.
    6. Grant Releases – Agent can sign waiver or release of liability so that medical personnel can perform duties while under their care.
    7. HIPAA – Representative – Agent has authorization to release all HIPAA or confidential medical information to medical professionals in the case of emergency care.
    8. Court Proceedings – If any court proceedings are to be taken while you are under care your Agent can instruct the court on your wishes and may act in your place. Your agent may be appointed guardian if necessary.
    9. Agent has power to instruct Third Parties on Health issues, Agent cannot be found to be liable and the Agent may be reimbursed for any expenses that are incurred for being Agent. 

  • Why should I hire your firm to handle my probate or estate planning case?

    I have more than a decade of legal experience in handling even the most complex of probate and estate planning cases. At my firm, I provide one-on-one attention so you will never feel overwhelmed or in the dark regarding the status of your case. My genuine interest and compassion for my clients is evident in everything that I do. You can trust me to utilize all my resources to protect your rights, interests, and assets, no matter what happens. We are constantly updating all of our documents to ensure that your trust, instructions to financial institutions and powers of attorney are in compliance with legal standards and that your assets will be transfered to the people and charity orginizations that you designate. We want to make sure that your beneficiaries are not burdened with a complicated legal process and that they do not have to hire additional lawyers or have to be at the mercy of the courts. 

  • Why do I need a Trust?

    If you have a will or no will at all, when you die all your property mainly real property (you home) and retirement income (401K, certain pensions, savings accounts and IRA's) must be put into a Govenment process called probate. Probate is controlled by the California Courts which means that the State of California will oversee who and what gets your property. The probate process takes from 6 to 12 months and you will have to hire an Attorney that will need to accurately and swiftly transfer your property to your spouse, domestic partner and or children. However,  a TRUST can transfer your property at death by a simple administration avoiding probate and putting all property into the hands of your spouse, domestic partner and or children. A TRUST portfolio at our office will include all necessary documents including a Revocable Living Trust, Powers of Attorney (Healthcare and Financials) and all instructions. Transfer documents placing property into the TRUST are included as well. A living Trust accomplishes:

    1. Avoids probate and costly attorney fees and government supervision.

    2. Swift transition of your assets to your loved ones.

    3. Orginization and all decisions that you want made with your life completed.

  • What is a Conservatorship?

    When someone is deemed to be incapicitaed because of an accident, mental health and or illness and they do not have a Durable Power of Attorney appointing someone to take care of their property (Home, Bank Accounts, Retirement Accounts) the State of California has a legal process that decides who will take of your property and how it will be disposed. That process is called a Conservatorship. To ensure that this does not happen to you make sure that you have a Durable Power of Attorney filed and ready so that you control your property even when you do not have the capicity 

  • What is probate?

    Probate is the legal process of settling a deceased person's affairs after their debts. It is notorious for being costly and lengthy, often tying up estates for months. The probate process can be emotionally and financially draining for surviving family members. Fortunately, the probate process can be avoided by establishing a trust. Learn more about how this works by contacting me.

  • Do I need a will a trust or nothing at all?

    A will is only recommended for people who have no real property (Home or Condiminium), who are not married and very little or no net worth. Wills do have there place and can be used in special situations in which there is some confusion over which document controls for testementary intent. 

    The preferred Estate Planning device is a trust so that you can control your real property, avoid probate and ease the burden on your family and loved ones when it comes to settling your affairs. 

    In some cases when a person owns a Mobile Home or has a named beneficiary for their 401K and or insurance policy a will is unnecessary but you should still consult with an Attorney and ensure that transfer of property will be accomplished.