Many people believe that estate plans are reserved just for the wealthy among us, but that is not true. Any adult who has savings or any property should consider estate planning. This could ensure that your assets go exactly where you would like them to, in the event of your death or incapacitation. While everyone’s estate plan will look different, the following might be included in an estate plan.
1. A will or trust. A will and last testament explicitly details how you would like your property and assets divided up and distributed when you pass away. Also included in a will is whom you have appointed guardian of your children, dependents, and pets. It could also include how you would like them to be cared for. A trust is very similar, but there is a trustee appointed who will follow your wishes according to the instructions left by you. A trust is handled privately, while a will goes through probate. Depending on the type of trust, it could also go into effect while you are still living. A Lawyer For Trusts will be able to explain in more detail the different types of trust available to you and which would better benefit your family.
2. Beneficiary forms. Even without a will, you can pass your assets to loved ones by designating beneficiaries to your assets, including bank, retirement, brokerage accounts, and life insurance policies. It is important that you update all beneficiary forms, as these do trump a will. For example, if you have different beneficiaries in your will than you do on beneficiary forms, then the beneficiaries listed on the forms will inherit the accounts.
3. Durable Powers of Attorney. Powers of Attorney are people of your choosing who make legal and financial decisions in your place if you are unable to for some reason, such as illness or injury. You can name as many people as necessary. For example, you might name one person to make financial decisions, while another family member would make your healthcare decisions.
4. Living will. This is a document in which you outline the kinds of medical treatments you do and do not want if you become incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself. You will usually have a healthcare power of attorney with your living will.
5. Letter of intent. This is a letter written by you, and possibly your Estate Settlement Attorney, that instructs the executor of your will exactly how you would like your assets divided. It should also include any instructions for your funeral arrangements.