When organizing your estate, there are many different legal documents to consider. Based on your individual circumstances, you may have a variety of different needs that one of our expert attorneys in Florida can help you understand. However, no matter your circumstances, there are some basic estate planning documents everyone can benefit from. Listed below are the five most important estate planning documents.
The 5 Most Important Estate Planning Documents
1. Revocable Living Trust: A revocable living trust is a legal entity that determines how your assets are distributed after your passing. It operates as its own entity, “owning” your property while you are still alive but still allowing you to use and control that property. This particular document is important for avoiding probate proceedings and allowing your assets to be distributed to your beneficiary designations smoothly. For this process, you will name a successor trustee who will manage the trust after your passing. After establishing this trust, it is important to transfer your assets to the trust, so they are all under the umbrella of the trust for distribution.
2. Last Will & Testament: Similar to the revocable living trust above, a last will and testament also dictates how your property is to be distributed after your passing, and it can include provisions about care and guardianship of minor children. However, one difference between the last will and testament and a revocable living trust is that the last will and testament only goes into effect when you die as opposed to the revocable living trust which allows for someone to manage your affairs while you are alive if you become incapacitated.
3. Living Will & Designation of Health Care Surrogate: A difficult part of many people’s later years is the complicated nature of medical decisions. A living will and designation of health care surrogate specifically informs your family and health care providers about your desires for medical treatment in the event you cannot advocate for yourself. The designated health care surrogate you choose will then make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
4. Declaration Naming Preneed Guardian: Similar to choosing a health care surrogate, a preneed guardian is a person chosen to manage your affairs, financial and/or health-related matters in the event that you become mentally or physically unable to do so yourself. This is a way for you to choose who cares for you and your assets rather than the court stepping in to decide.
5. Durable Power of Attorney: Finally, also similar to several of the above documents, a durable power of attorney specifically designates someone to act on your behalf regarding financial assets and legal matters. This person has the financial power to engage in investment accounts, real estate matters, bank accounts, etc. For many people, adult children or someone else who has a strong understanding of their financial accounts is chosen in this role.
If you would like to discuss your individual or business estate planning process and necessary legal documents, please contact our knowledgeable estate planning attorneys. It is our goal to help you achieve peace of mind by making sure your assets and final years are handled as you wish.
This article was originally published on 6/09/2021, but has been updated for accuracy and freshness.