What is an Apostille?
An "apostille" is a form of authentication issued to documents for use in countries that participate in the Hague Convention of 1961. A list of countries that accept apostilles is provided by the US State Department.
If the country of intended use does not participate in the Hague Convention, documents being sent to that country can be "authenticated" or "certified".
The Office of the Secretary of State provides apostille and authentication service to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals on documents that will be used overseas. Types of documents include corporate documents such as company bylaws and articles of incorporation, power of attorney, diplomas, transcripts, letters relating to degrees, marital status, references and job certifications, home studies, deeds of assignments, distributorship agreements, papers for adoption purposes, etc. The U.S. State Department provides general information about document authentications and apostilles under the Hague Convention of 1961.
General Power of Attorney
A general power of attorney gives broad powers to a person or organization (known as an agent or attorney-in-fact) to act in your behalf. These powers include handling financial and business transactions, buying life insurance, settling claims, operating business interests, making gifts, and employing professional help. General power of attorney is an effective tool if you will be out of the country and need someone to handle certain matters, or when you are physically or mentally incapable of managing your affairs. A general power of attorney is often included in an estate plan to make sure someone can handle financial matters.
Special Power of Attorney
You can specify exactly what powers an agent may exercise by signing a special power of attorney. This is often used when one cannot handle certain affairs due to other commitments or health reasons. Selling property (personal and real), managing real estate, collecting debts, and handling business transactions are some of the common matters specified in a special power of attorney document.
Health Care Power of Attorney
A health care power of attorney grants your agent authority to make medical decisions for you if you are unconscious, mentally incompetent, or otherwise unable to make decisions on your own. While not the same thing as a living will, many states allow you to include your preference about being kept on life support. Some states will allow you to combine parts of the health care POA and living will into an advanced health care directive.
Durable Power of Attorney
Suppose you become mentally incompetent due to illness or accident while you have a power of attorney in effect. Will the document remain valid? To safeguard against any problems, you can sign a durable power of attorney. This is simply a general, special, or health care POA that has a durability provision to keep the current power of attorney in effect.
You might also sign a durable power of attorney to prepare for the possibility that you may become mentally incompetent due to illness or injury. Specify in the power of attorney that it cannot go into effect until a doctor certifies you as mentally incompetent. You may name a specific doctor who you wish to determine your competency, or require that two licensed physicians agree on your mental state.
Health Care Directive, A health care directive is a written document that informs other of your wishes about your health care. It allows you to name a person ("agent") to decide for you if you are unable to decide. It also allows you to name an agent if you want someone else to decide for you.
Grant Deed, A grant deed is used in some states and jurisdictions for the sale or other transfer of real property from one person or entity to another person or entity. Each party transferring an interest in the property, or "grantor", is required to sign it.
Quit Claim Deed, A quitclaim deed is a legal instrument by which the owner of a piece of real property, called the grantor, transfers any interest to a recipient, called the grantee. The owner/grantor terminates (“quits”) any right and claim to the property, thereby allowing the right or claim to transfer to the recipient/grantee.
Deed of Trust
A document that embodies the agreement between a lender and a borrower to transfer an interest in the borrower's land to a neutral third party, a trustee, to secure the payment of a debt by the borrower.
A deed of trust, also called a trust deed or a Potomac Mortgage, is used in some states in place of a mortgage, a transfer of interest in land by a mortgagor-borrower to a mortgagee-lender to secure the payment of the borrower's debt. Although a deed of trust serves the same purpose as a type of security, it differs from a mortgage. A deed of trust is an arrangement among three parties: the borrower, the lender, and an impartial trustee. In exchange for a loan of money from the lender, the borrower places legal title to real property in the hands of the trustee who holds it for the benefit of the lender, named in the deed as the beneficiary. The borrower retains equitable title to, and possession of, the property.
The terms of the deed provide that the transfer of legal title to the trustee will be void on the timely payment of the debt. If the borrower defaults in the payment of the debt, the trustee is empowered by the deed to sell the property and pay the lender the proceeds to satisfy the debt. Any surplus will be returned to the borrower.
What is a living trust and how is it different from a last will.
A living trust (sometimes called an "inter vivos" or "revocable" trust) is a written legal document through which your assets are placed into a trust for your benefit during your lifetime and then transferred to designated beneficiaries at your death by your chosen representative, called a "successor trustee."
On the other hand, a will is a written legal document with a plan of distribution of your assets upon your death. Your executor, as named in the will, oversees this process, and notably, nothing in your will takes effect until after you die.
1. A Living Trust Avoids Probate
One of the first benefits of a living trust is that it avoids probate. With a valid will, your estate will go through probate, the court proceedings through which your assets are distributed according to your wishes by the executor.
A living trust, on the other hand, does not go through probate, which often means a faster distribution of assets to your heirs—from months or years with a will down to weeks with a living trust. Your successor trustee will pay your debts and distribute your assets according to your instructions.
What is a last will and testament?
A last will and testament is the legal document by which you identify those individuals (or charities) that are to receive your property and possessions on your death. These individuals and charities are commonly referred to as the beneficiaries under your last will and testament. In addition, within the provisions of your last will and testament, you nominate an Executor to be responsible for the proper administration of your estate and the disposition of your property to your intended beneficiaries. The Executor may be an individual or an institution. After your death, the person or entity you have nominated to be your Executor petitions the court to be appointed Executor of your estate. After being appointed, the Executor manages your estate’s financial affairs and ensures that your property is distributed in accordance with your wishes as indicated in the last will & testament.
Also, if you have young children, you may use the last will and testament to nominate a Guardian(s) for your children who are under 18 years at the time of your death and for whom a guardianship would be necessary (i.e., meaning that your children’s other parent is already deceased at your death
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