While there are a variety of tools and forms that can make up a comprehensive estate plan, we thought it would be beneficial to go over some of the more common documents. Here then, is a quick look at three estate planning documents you’re most likely to encounter.
There are actually different types of wills. The Last Will and Testament is probably the one most recognized and it’s also one of the most common vehicles used to transfer assets upon death.
A Living Will on the other hand, is used to outline your treatment preferences if you are terminally ill or persistently unconscious and your doctors say you have no hope of recovery. Among other things it allows you to direct whether you wish to have your life prolonged in those situations by a feeding tube, or not.
The Pour-Over Will is another variation and is designed to direct assets titled in your individual name at the time of your death into a Trust at the time of your passing. The Trust then handles the final distribution of your assets.
Incidentally, there’s also a fourth type of will known as the Ethical Will. Unlike the others listed above, this type of will does not handle your property or assets. Instead, it is used to record record your spiritual and moral values for the benefit of the family that you will be leaving behind.
Like wills, trusts come in all shapes and sizes too. The revocable living trust is the one most of us have heard about. It enables you to bypass the probate process and distribute your assets privately to your designated beneficiaries. Probate by the way, is not “private”… the entire process is considered to be public record and can be accessed by anyone.
Trusts can also be used to provide asset protection and in some cases, minimize estate taxes. You could also create a trust to impose stipulations on beneficiaries before an inheritance will be distributed, giving you a a great way to ensure that your grandchildren go to college or graduate high school. There are even trusts to help you address the care of a special needs child as well as trusts to provide for the family pet after you’re gone.
Durable Powers of Attorney
With these documents you name a party or parties, known as “attorneys-in-fact” who you trust to carry out decisions on your behalf. This document can then enable a friend or family member to make decisions relating to your finances and on-going medical care if you become incapacitated and are no longer able to speak on your own behalf.
To learn more about the various documents that can make up a good estate plan, contact our office. We’ll be happy to discuss your unique needs and help you create the estate plan that’s best for you.
Author, President and Founding Attorney
Parman & Easterday