A Rundown of Common Estate Planning Documents

Sun, Jan 26, 2014

Estate Planning

Some rights reserved by RambergMediaImagesEstate planning does not have to be a challenging chore. A qualified attorney can easily facilitate it. Yet, many people do not do any estate planning at all or wait till very late in their life.

Many think that they don’t have enough money to make the cost of estate planning worth it. However, this is simply not true for many individuals. That is because estate planning encompasses everything from wills to trusts to power of attorneys.

In addition, estate planning includes many documents that are helpful for the end of your life no matter your economic standing. And actually, they can be helpful for many people throughout their life. This includes documents like healthcare surrogate paperwork.

Let’s start with a will. Creating a will is a very important part of estate planning. Wills help your property and other assets get to the right people, the heirs you specify. It’s the best way to ensure that Aunt Susie gets your china and your favorite charity gets some cash and your children are taken care of by the right people. Dying without a will, or intestate, is a hazardous way to die—for your belongings will be divided up by the state. And your children will not always be cared for by the people who you desire to care for them, as the state receives that ultimate decision with no will available. Making a proper will is also key to help avoiding some probate.

If you have lots of assets or very complicated heirs or money situations, then you might consider a trust. A trust ensures that your assets pass directly to the specific individual, charity, or organization. It helps prevent complications amongst heirs and also helps with estate taxes. There are many types of trusts that we have discussed recently in another post.

Speaking of estate taxes, you want to pay as few of these as possible. Probate is also expensive too. A qualified estate-planning attorney can help you organize your state and assets in a way to make sure your heirs receive as much money as possible and avoid as much of the taxes and probate as possible. This is done by properly designating beneficiaries and creating certain documents that work within the laws of probate and estate taxes.

Then there are documents like Power of Attorney, which designates someone who can act on your behalf if you become ill or incapacitated mentally. Make sure you pick someone you trust, and always update these documents if this trust is broken. Also, you can designate power of attorneys for certain situations—so you don’t have the same person handling all of your affairs if this is what you desire. These documents include financial and medical power of attorneys.

A Healthcare Surrogate is also another document to consider. Instead of choosing your closest relative, the hospital or doctor (once they know of the document) would look to this person to make decisions about your healthcare if you are unable to.

Another medical document to consider is a living will. A living will is where you make your wishes about your last moments known. It discusses life-saving measures and more.

We have written many posts about estate planning. They can be found in this part of our website.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith is a Lakewood Ranch, Florida attorney with SmithLaw Attorneys. He concentrates in bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area. Call 941-907-4774 to learn more and to ask about our free consultations.

Image: Some rights reserved by RambergMediaImages

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