Critical Estate Documents to Manage Wealth and Inheritance Matters
Good estate planning enables you to effectively plan and manage wealth and inheritance matters. You can consider plans for the distribution of your wealth, philanthropic donations, your healthcare directives and ensure all are executed as you have previously designated.
There are certain documents that are critical to good estate planning. These include the following:
A Will is a crucial estate document. It provides specific instructions on how your assets are to be distributed among those you have designated as beneficiaries. To avoid future conflict or contestations, it is advisable to have the Will drafted by an attorney who will customize provisions as per your wishes.
You’ll need to choose a personal representative who will serve as the “executor” or “executrix” of the Will. This person is tasked with the responsibility of distributing assets as per the provisions of the Will and pay any outstanding estate expenses.
A Living Will
A Living Will offers very specific instructions regarding direction for the use of artificial life support and medical care. It is generally applicable during terminal illnesses and clearly spells out the life-sustaining measures that you would wish to have in place when you are no longer able to communicate or make decisions. While a Living Will defines what you want, and, what measures you don’t want, it does not give any third party the authority to speak on your behalf. There are states where the living will can be used in combination with a Health Care Power of Attorney. A Living Will serves the following functions:
- It spells out your medical wishes in the event that you are not able to communicate them yourself.
- It provides specific instructions concerning artificial life support and your medical care.
- It will go into effect immediately upon your incapacitation.
- The living will has no expiration timeline and can be revoked or revised at any time.
- The living will does not authorize any other person to handle your financial affairs upon your incapacitation. It documents your healthcare wishes and decisions.
A Revocable Living Trust
There are various kinds of trusts that can be used in estate planning each of which can help you arrive at a certain management model for your assets. A revocable living trust is a common trust options.
When you transfer your assets into a revocable living trust, you are planning the continued management of your assets. A revocable living trust can also ensure the management of assets for many generations afterwards. With a revocable living trust, your trust assets will not be subject to probate (they don’t need to be signed off on in probate court) and the personal information contained therein will not be subject to public records.
You will be the grantor or settlor of your revocable trust who creates the trust and puts assets into it. You will also designate beneficiaries of the trust. Your beneficiaries benefit from the trust assets according to the terms laid out in the trust provisions. Finally, the revocable living trust must have a trustee whose role is to be the administrator of the trust assets. As the grantor, you have the leeway to change the terms or provisions of the revocable living trust at any time in your lifetime.
A Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document that authorizes someone to act on your behalf and handle your legal and financial affairs in the event that you become incapacitated. The designee will be referred to as an Attorney-in-Fact or an Agent. Through a Durable Power of Attorney, you can transfer limited or broad powers for the management of your legal and financial affairs. The Durable Power of Attorney will accomplish the following:
- It goes into effect immediately upon incapacitation.
- It authorizes a party to handle your legal and financial affairs in the event you become incapacitated. With a Durable Power of Attorney, your Agent can sell and invest your assets.
- The Durable Power of Attorney continues as long as you might be incapacitated. It is only valid as long as you are alive.
Health Care Power of Attorney
This is another critical estate document. The Healthcare Power of Attorney grants authorization for someone to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated. It is used in concert with a living will to guide health care decisions in the event you are unable to communicate or make decisions concerning your medical care.
These are some of the key estate documents that you will need to have in order to ensure a smooth transition or administration of your assets in case of incapacitation or death. A good attorney can help you create a holistic estate plan to satisfy your wishes.
Good estate planning enables you to effectively plan and manage wealth and inheritance matters. For help in planning your wealth management contact us today!
This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.