Estate Planning is usually done as a package
Wills, trusts, powers of attorney, advanced directives, deeds, and more.
It's really hard to predict the future. That is why a complete estate plan typically includes a number of documents. This is because each document plays a different role and we don't know ahead of time which one(s) we will need. In this blog, we will discuss the documents that typically comprise a "complete" estate plan and why they are important.
Revocable Living Trust
Think of the trust as the centerpiece of your estate plan. It is the document that you will use and think about for the rest of your life. The trust can be as simple or as complicated as you want. You just need to name a successor trustee(s) that can manage the trust when you are no longer able.
Whenever an estate plan includes a trust, it is important that there also be a will as well. The reason being is that we can only put those assets we know about into the trust. For those assets that we don't know we have or forget about, we need a will to pull them back into the trust. Clients with minor children also need a will in order to name guardians for those minor children.
We hope is doesn't happen but there is always a chance that we can be incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions for ourselves. In that event, advanced directives can prove to be very useful documents. There are a number of different advanced directives. An example of one is the living will. This document spells out (i.e. declares) what you don't want. Another example is a power of attorney for health care. This document allows you to name agents who can make medical decisions for you if necessary. Most advanced directives are given to us by the State, so you do not necessarily need an attorney to prepare one. It is still advisable since there are a number of questions that could come up.
Financial Power of Attorney
In the event of incapacitation, life still goes on. Bills still need to be paid and food put on the table. A financial power of attorney allows you to designate who makes financial decisions in this event. This document is critical when it comes to spouse and the retirement plan. If one spouse/partner becomes incapacitated, the other spouse/partner may need to make a withdrawal from the retirement plan to pay the bills. The power of attorney for property/finance would help since the named agent could make withdrawals if absolutely needed.