Occasionally, a client will ask, “Do I really need all of these estate planning documents?” Usually, it’s rhetorical questions and a joke about trees, but we answer the question anyway. After all, estate planning attorneys like trees.
The estate planning documents that your attorney will recommend will be based upon your concerns, finances, goals, and the law. The consequences of not having these documents are often harsh.
While you may need advanced estate planning, the typical basic (i.e. foundational) planning includes, at a minimum, the following:
- A will to nominate a guardian for minor children, select an executor to handle your estate, and give instruction for the distribution of your assets. For more modest estates, a will may be all that is necessary to distribute your estate at your death.
- A revocable living trust to provide for your incapacity, appoint trustees in the event of disability and death, and distribute your assets. For persons who have more than modest estates, a trust is an effective way to distribute assets after your death without having to endure the rigors and expense of a probate proceeding. If you have a trust, you still need a will, but it’s called a “pour-over-will” instead of a traditional will.
- A financial power of attorney to authorize an agent to manage your day to day business affairs if you can’t and to address matters not handled by your trust.
- An advance health care directive to authorize an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf, access your medical records, communicate with medical professionals and carry out your health care choices.
- HIPAA release to follow federal privacy laws and enable your medical providers to communicate with your health care power of attorney agent.
Ensure that all of these trees are put to good use by making your estate planning documents available to those named in trusted helper positions.
To create a plan that is personalized to your situation, speak with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.