An estate plan may be your last communication with your loved ones. It contains your final wishes regarding your body and possessions and directions regarding your health care. There are four legal documents you must have (and another you should have) to instruct your loved ones. First, you need a Last Will and Testament. A Last Will and Testament names the beneficiaries who will inherit the assets from your estate and names a Personal Representative (known as an “Executor” in other states) who will be in charge of administering your estate. Second, you need a Living Will. This may be the most important document you ever sign. A Living Will makes your intentions known regarding the providing, withholding, or withdrawal of life-prolonging procedures in the event you have a terminal condition, end-stage condition, or you are in a persistent vegetative state. Third, you need a Durable Power of Attorney. Your agent acting under a Durable Power of Attorney will have access and decision making authority over your finances. It is “Durable” because it continues to function even if you become incapacitated. Lastly, you need to appoint a Heath Care Surrogate. A Health Care Surrogate is an individual appointed under a written document designating an individual to make health care decisions and/or receive health information on your behalf.
The aforementioned legal documents are necessities, but it is also recommended that you form a Revocable Trust, mainly to make the administration and distribution of your assets as simple and cost effective as possible. By using a Revocable Trust to own and distribute assets at death, in lieu of a Last Will and Testament, the onerous court process called “Probate” can be avoided. Probate is a court proceeding to administer assets in a decedent’s name at death. Probate can be costly and time consuming, and in we help our estate planning clients avoid it.
The planning outlined herein is designed to keep you and your assets and estate outside of a court. By doing the proper planning today, you can make life easier on your loved ones in the future.
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