Contemporary estate plans rely on the same essential estate planning documents to one extent or another. Though every individual estate plan is different, all of them need key pieces in order to provide the necessary benefits everyone wants to obtain. No matter if you’re 18 or 80, your estate plan is likely to include all of the following documents.
A Last Will and Testament
You might have seen movies or television shows where people, typically on their deathbeds, tell those gathered around them of their last wishes. While these types of oral wills are recognized in a limited number of states, they are by far the exception to the rule.
Everyone creating an estate plan will want to create a last will and testament that is in writing. This document is a key part of your plan even if other elements, such as a revocable living trust, play a more important part. Even though all states have different laws about wills, you can create one by setting down your wishes in writing, signing it, and having it signed by two disinterested adult witnesses.
Much of estate planning deals with what happens to your property after you are gone, but a very important part deals with what you want to happen should you be unconscious but still alive. Advance medical directives are documents through which you either delegate your decision-making responsibility to someone else or state your medical choices in as much detail as you like. Living wills and health care powers of attorney are two of the most commonly used advance directive documents.
Power of Attorney Documents
A health care power of attorney is just one type of power of attorney, and many people incorporate financial powers of attorney into their estate plans as well. These documents give you the ability to delegate your decision-making authority to others. Should you become incapacitated, the agent you name through your power of attorney document will be able to step in and manage your affairs as you need.
One of the most versatile estate planning tools available to you, trusts often form the keystone piece in a comprehensive plan. Whether you’re creating a revocable living trust, testamentary trust, or anything in between, you need to have the original trust document prepared properly. Because there are so many types of trusts available to you, creating a trust document, also known as a trust instrument, that states your objectives specifically and one that incorporates the appropriate trust terms is essential.
Knowing what to include in these documents, and what not to include, is something your estate planning attorney will be able to advise you about as you go through the trust creation and funding process.