Estate Planning, in its broadest sense, is the process of managing how your assets will be distributed after you pass away.  However, as part of the estate planning process, it is also of the utmost importance that individuals plan for the management of their personal finances and healthcare should they ever become incapacitated.  For many people, this takes the form of three simple core documents:  a Will, Health Care Power of Attorney and Financial Power of Attorney.

It is important to note that Wills only dictate where “probate assets” go after your passing.  Things such as 401(k)’s and life insurance policies most often list beneficiaries who will receive those funds “outside of probate.”  Such things will pass to the named beneficiaries regardless of what is stated in your Will.  Our attorneys will work with you to review your family and asset situation, to help determine what documents are necessary and how non-probate transfers should be structured to meet your overall estate planning goals.


A Will is a legal document that lets you provide who should receive your probate assets after your death. Recipients of the assets are called beneficiaries. A Will also names a personal representative who distributes your property, appoints a guardian to care for minor children, and determines how and when property is transferred to beneficiaries.  Wills may also be used to establish Testamentary Trusts for the management and distribution of assets after death.


A Trust is a flexible planning tool which can be used for a variety of purposes. One purpose is to transfer property without the need for a probate. Another purpose is to give discretion to provide for several family members or different generations of family members by delaying the distribution of your property. More sophisticated trusts can help reduce estate and generation skipping tax liability. Although trusts can be extremely useful, they are not necessary for everyone.

Health Care Power of Attorney

Also known as a Living Will, or a Durable Health Care Directive, this legal document is one of the most important estate planning tools. It allows an individual to name someone as his or her Agent, who will make health care decisions when a person cannot communicate his or her wishes to a health care provider. This list of instructions guides the health care agent in making important and sometimes difficult decisions regarding medical care.

Financial Power of Attorney

This legal document, also known as a Durable Power of Attorney, allows a person (the principal) to name someone else as his or her Agent to handle financial matters when the principal is unable to do so (or immediately if the principal so chooses). This can be a significant estate planning tool.  In some instances, the authority of an Agent can be limited either to specific transactions or situations where the principal is unable to act (for example, signing documents at a real estate closing).

Reach out to our law office today about your estate planning by calling (608) 643-3391 to schedule an initial consultation regarding your situation with Attorney Patrick J. Taggart, II