Estate planning is a very personal process that takes into consideration a variety of personal, family, and financial circumstances. Your estate plan should be unique to you, and you should contemplate all of the issues that will need to be addressed once you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself.
While no two estate plans are exactly alike, there are a number of basic documents that are involved in the estate planning process. It may be the case that some of these do not apply to your situation, but it is worthwhile to gain a basic understanding of the options that are available.
Estate Planning Documents to Protect and Transfer Your Property
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament is the most basic form of estate planning document. Your will establishes who gets your property after you pass away, and also designates a personal representative (called the “executor”) to carry out your final wishes.
Trusts can serve a variety of different purposes, and they often provide greater flexibility for distributing assets while also providing opportunities to minimize the tax burdens associated with gifts and estate transfers. You may consider establishing a trust if you desire to:
- Specifically provide for the education or basic needs of a child or spouse
- Preserve certain assets or keep them in your family for generations to come
- Manage or invest life insurance proceeds for your beneficiaries
- Delay or exert other controls over a minor child’s access to certain property or funds
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial (durable) power of attorney allows you to designate a trusted family member, advisor, or friend to manage your finances should you become unable to do so during the later stages of life. Like other estate planning documents, a financial power of attorney allows you to help your loved ones avoid confusion and disagreements if you are unable to make your intentions known.
A prenuptial agreement can be integral to your estate plan as well. Read more about the benefits of prenuptial agreements.
Estate Planning Documents for Medical Care
Like a financial power of attorney, a living will allows you to designate a trusted surrogate to make healthcare-related decisions on your behalf. You can also use a living will to provide specific instructions regarding life-prolonging treatment.
Advance Medical Directives
Similar to living wills, advance medical directives provide written guidelines to healthcare providers should you be unable to communicate at the time treatment is needed.
Ask Us About Your Estate Plan
If you do not have an estate plan, it is time to think about putting one in place with an experienced estate planning attorney. It is never too early, but it can very quickly become too late. If you have a plan, we can help you determine if any changes or additions need to be made. To learn more, contact Beller & Bustamante, P.L. today.