A common inquiry from clients is what legal documents do they need to protect themselves and their loved ones in the event of their incapacity or death. These answers can be provided by an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.
Your attorney will have a conversation with you and collect important family, health, financial, goal, and concern information. He or she will then, with your input, design an estate plan that includes several estate planning documents, which are all customized to your individual situation.
Basic estate planning documents may include a will, financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney (often called an advance health care directive) and HIPAA (medical information) release. However, this is a bare minimum estate plan that may not be appropriate for you if you own real estate or have more than $150,000 in assets.
If you have minor children, you also likely will need a revocable living trust-based plan which would include the nomination of a guardian for your minor children and the ability to hold assets for them until they reach a mature age.
A revocable living trust- based plan is the most appropriate for many people, whether they have minor children or not. It’s used for, among other things, incapacity planning, long term care benefits planning, probate avoidance, tax minimization, pet planning, special needs planning, legacy planning, bloodline protection planning, and asset protection planning for inheritances.
A major advantage of a trust-base plan over a will-based plan is the ability to avoid costly, time-consuming and burdensome court proceedings in the event of your disability or death.
Once you have the appropriate estate planning documents in place, let your loved ones know where you keep them; who’s in charge when; and how to contact your estate planning attorney and other professional advisers
Keep all of your important documents, papers, certificates, and financial information with your estate planning documents in a safe place such as a home safe or bank safe deposit box. Be sure to include a list of:
- Who to contact should you become incapacitated or die
- Final arrangement wishes
- Love letters for loved ones
- Specific personal property gifts to loved ones
- Usernames, passwords, PINs, and a list of all online accounts
Review your estate plan at least every three years and do so sooner if you have a significant life change such as change in health or wealth, new child, move to a new state, new business, significant change in assets, new marriage, new divorce, etc.
If you don’t have a comprehensive up-to-date estate plan in place, consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.