Eight Estate Planning Documents Everyone Should Have (and keep updated!)

Estate Plan Documents

An Estate Plan contains many documents, some that people are unaware of and need. Here is an overview of eight documents you may need to prepare for yourself and your family with the help of an attorney.

  1. LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

A legal document used to distribute property to beneficiaries, specify last wishes, name guardians for minors and identify who is responsible for managing the estate and implementing your requests. Every adult needs one. If you don’t specify who will take care of your children and who gets your possessions, the state in which you reside will do it for you and it may not always be what you would’ve wanted.

  1. DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY

A Durable Power of Attorney gives someone you trust authority to handle your financial and legal matters if you’re unable to do so yourself. Of course, the person selected needs to be someone whom you trust will represent your best interests. Review my blog post here on how to choose the correct Power of Attorney (link to old blog post)

  1. HEALTH CARE SURROGATE DESIGNATION

You assign a healthcare proxy or surrogate to make medical decisions for you when you are incapable of doing so but there is an expectation of survival. This person will need relevant health information so be sure it includes a HIPAA provision that gives your physician(s) permission to disclose your medical information.

  1. LIVING WILL AND MEDICAL DIRECTIVES

A living will let you specify what types of medical treatment you want to sustain your life if you’re terminally ill or are in a vegetative state. Medical directives apply if you become incapacitated and are unable to communicate your wishes for treatment.  The difference between the Health Care Surrogate and the Living Will and Right of Privacy Declaration is that the Health Care Surrogate is written for times of poor health to allow full access to healthcare providers and information; when you are unable to make your own decisions, yet the thought is that there will be survival with quality of life. The Living Will is essentially the document that says when YOU would like to say “turn it off if there is no hope”. 

  1. REVOCABLE OR LIVING TRUST

In many states, a living trust can be used to distribute property more privately than a will –Florida is one of those states. It also helps avoid a costly and stressful probate court process allowing a more seamless administration of your Estate.  There are many circumstances that dictate a Trust being appropriate and many times that I advise they are unnecessary.  That said, I strongly recommend folks consider a Trust in the following circumstances:  When you have real property in more than one state, children or young adults that stand to inherit a substantial sum, or concerns about your mental capacity declining.

  1. BENEFICIARY FORMS

For insurance policies, retirement accounts, and some other assets, the beneficiary form prevails over the will. Whom you name in these documents will receive the assets, so make sure they are reviewed and updated every few years if needed, and your Attorney includes them in your plan.

  1. LETTERS OF INSTRUCTION

A way to share any wishes not covered by a will, such as preferences on your funeral, how to care for your pets or whether you want to donate your organs.

  1. LIST OF CONTACTS

A detailed list of people to contact in certain circumstances, including family, friends and the professionals who oversee your legal, financial, insurance and health matters.

Also, advise your family where these documents are and keep them in a safe place. If you live in the Daytona Beach, Florida area and have more questions regarding Estate Planning, call me for a free consultation.

 

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