The 5 Essential Estate Planning Documents You Need

Estate planning is essential for everyone; learn about the five most important documents needed for estate planning.

The 5 Essential Estate Planning Documents You Need

Estate planning is an important part of life, and it's essential to have the right documents in place to ensure that your wishes are carried out. The five most important documents to include in your estate plan are your will, a trust, powers of attorney, advance medical instructions, and beneficiary designations. Did you know that if you don't name someone as your guardian, the court could appoint a person you don't know or have never met to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf? Appointing a guardian prior to need designates a person to act on your behalf in the event that your permanent power of attorney and the appointment of a health care representative are unsuccessful. If you become incapacitated and unable to make your own medical decisions, an advance medical directive will ensure that your last wishes are met.

Among all your estate planning documents, an Advance Health Care Directive (AD) is one of the most important. A durable power of attorney allows you to designate a person to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated and unable to make these decisions on your own. Without a durable power of attorney, no one will be able to make these decisions on your behalf unless a court appoints a guardian or curator. The judicial process of appointing a guardian can be lengthy and expensive.

The judge may not choose the person you would have named. A revocable living trust, also known as a living trust, can be used as an alternative to a living will. Like a will, an active trust dictates your last wishes, but it also dictates what happens if you become incapacitated and allows you to transfer assets to the trust for as long as you live. After your death, your revocable living trust becomes irrevocable.

At this point, the successor trustee steps in and complies with your final wishes just as you have described. Living trusts offer some advantages over wills. One of the main advantages is that the details of your wealth remain private. A revocable living trust can also be used to avoid the legalization of probate, which can be a costly and time-consuming process. When it comes to estate planning, it can be difficult to determine what documents you need and what's good to have. The legal documents needed for estate planning are those that will address asset ownership when you die.

At a minimum, an estate plan must include a last will and testament, which is the infallible way to control these results. In short, we will explain what a will is and why you should have one in force. The underlying intention and, therefore, the design of your estate plan will evolve over the course of your life. Our incentives and desires naturally change over time, as our families and assets grow. That's why the directives and requests of a woman in her twenties will look completely different from those of a 50-year-old.

However, the fundamental structure of an estate plan must be consistent from person to person, regardless of age. This is because everyone must have the same 5 estate planning documents, regardless of age, net worth, or marital status. Other documents are optional depending on your personal circumstances. In your will, you must list your assets and assets and specify who should inherit each asset. These people are your beneficiaries and are often your loved ones, such as your spouse or children.

By making a will, you ensure that your assets are protected and that they go to the right people in case something happens to you. While beneficiary designations aren't a literal estate planning document, it's an aspect that's critical to the process. Regardless of age, everyone should establish an advance directive, including a health care proxy. This document allows you to appoint a proxy who is authorized to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. This could be due to temporary, long-term, or permanent disability. In other words, when you can't communicate your own needs or make your own decisions.

Along with your health care proxy comes your living will. Both are part of your advance health care directive and comprehensively address what should happen if you are incapacitated and need medical care. Ask yourself: How will your health care proxy know what you would have wanted? Through your living will? In this document, you will address common medical scenarios and make your wishes known. This eases the burden on loved ones when they have already made difficult decisions for them. They can be more confident in knowing that their decision-making is in line with what you would have wanted because you've taken the trouble to document it. Last but not least, don't forget to establish a durable power of attorney.

This is a document you would use to designate an agent who is authorized to act on your behalf. They're similar to your health care proxy but they're usually in charge of making financial, personal, and business decisions on your behalf. A traditional power of attorney expires if you become incapacitated. Instead we recommend designating a DPOA so that you can have peace of mind knowing that someone you trust is keeping the business running for you when you can't.As long as you have the 5 essential estate planning documents in place, you can rest easy knowing that both yourself and those closest to you have strong protections in place. However this doesn't mean that you have to stop there; depending on unique circumstances additional estate planning documents may be necessary.

Valerie Trible
Valerie Trible

Amateur music advocate. Hipster-friendly beer ninja. Subtly charming web specialist. Typical internet fanatic. Professional musicaholic. Wannabe bacon specialist.

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