Part of planning for the future is ensuring that you have everything you need to be successful. Part of your estate planning process should include sitting down with an estate planning attorney and constructing comprehensive legal documents that will protect you, your loved ones, and your assets. Although no two plans are ever the same, there are a few legal documents that everyone should have.
1. A Will
No matter if you have $1000 in assets or $1,000,000, everyone should have a Will. A Will is a document that sets out who gets your assets once you have passed away. Without it, the courts will have the final say on who receives your assets. Your estate is then intestate, and the probate process can be more expensive and longer than a the probate of a regular estate, not to mention that your assets may go to people who you would prefer not to get them.
2. A Revocable Trust
A revocable trust does the same thing as a Will—it provides where your assets will go after your death. However, unlike a Will, with a Revocable Trust it is possible to avoid probate, the process under which the court oversees the transfer of your assets. This is done by transferring your assets—such as your real property or your investment accounts—into the Trust during your lifetime, so that upon your death they can pass directly to your family, or be kept in Trust until a certain time (a child reaches a certain age for example). Because the trust is revocable, that means that you still have full powers over those assets while you are alive—you can sell them, give them away or keep them in the Trust. (This is not the same as an Irrevocable Trust, which cannot usually be changed once it is established, although there can be good reasons for doing such a trust, such as asset protection or removing assets from your ownership).
3. Healthcare Power of Attorney
A healthcare power of attorney document appoints someone, or multiple people, to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so yourself. No matter who you appoint, you will want to make sure that they understand your healthcare wishes. Not having this document can lead to confusion, decision you would not want, and can in some circumstances require your family to get a court ordered guardianship over you.
4. Advanced Directive
What would happen if you were suddenly unable to communicate your wishes? An advanced directive document allows you to have your wishes regarding end of life decisions heard, even when you are incapable of communicating. This legal document states what you want to happen if you are terminally ill, in a vegetative state, or completely physically or mentally incapacitated. Making these decisions in advance gives you the peace of mind that your wishes will be respected.
5. Durable Financial Power of Attorney
Sometimes known as a Financial Power of Attorney, this legal document names a person or persons to handle your finances should you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated. Life doesn’t stop, and you want to make sure things like your bills, investments, medical expenses, and insurance policies are taken care of. If you do not have a valid Financial Power of Attorney, it may be necessary for your family members to get a court ordered guardianship over your finances in order to take care of them—that can be expensive, especially if they don’t agree as to who should have that role.
Start Planning Today
Don’t put off planning for the future. DK Rus Law is here to help you create comprehensive legal documents that will protect you, your family, and your assets. Get started today with a FREE consultation.