First, if you have all your estate planning docs in order, Congratulations! Really quick though, please take a second and ask yourself, “Has anything changed since I had them drafted?” If not, you are likely good to go.
Although before you click away, you may also want to ask yourself, “Would this info be helpful to someone else… Friend or Family?”
Ok, for those of you who want to know about the Must Have Estate Planning Docs, and other things you need to know, here we go!
5 Benefits – The Upside of Estate Planning
Let’s face it, most of us don’t want to think about dying. That’s why I encourage clients to look estate planning as more of an opportunity to hold onto your money and maintain control. Proper estate planning allows you to:
- Keep as much money in your estate as possible.
- Maintain control over the things you can, while you can.
- Make all your wishes known and legally binding (including medical wishes).
- Make certain those wishes can be carried out immediately and with ease.
- Keep your estate Out of Probate! …and avoid all the time, hassle and money associated with that 8-18 month process.
3 Basics – Estate Planning Docs Made Easy
A comprehensive estate plan contains several legal documents. It should be well thought out and accomplish these three key things:
- Explain what you want done with your estate after you pass.
- Provide clear direction for health care while you are still alive.
- Give power of attorney, financial and medical, to someone else if you become incapacitated.
Many people do not realize just how involved an estate plan can be. Our aim is to simplify the process and make sure you have the important documents in place for when they are needed.
Draft a Simple Will as Part of Your Estate Planning Docs
SIMPLE WILL – A will is perhaps the most important legal document you need, as it outlines your wishes after death. Alone, it does not keep the estate out of probate, it does, however, officially document your wishes and help avoid messy arbitration. While it has its limitations, a Simple Will is good option when you have less than 150K in assets and a pretty straight-forward estate. Read more about the different types of wills – Click Here
Draft a Living Trust in Lieu of a Will
LIVING TRUST – A living trust is similar to a will. It explains how your property handled during a period of incapacity and how they should be distributed after death. Your assets are placed in trust during your lifetime, and you remain in control of those assets as long as you live. Hence the term “living” trust.
Benefits of a Living Trust: A living trust is what’s required if you hope to have your estate avoid probate. The probate process can be a long one. There are costly court fees and significant time involved; probate can take a year or longer. During that time, your beneficiaries have little to no access to funds and the person designated to handle your affairs (typically a family member), may be required to advance funds for the payment of expenses for the privilege of handling your estate. It can be tough! With a trust, or living trust, things are made MUCH easier! Read more about the benefits of a Living Trust – Click Here
It Comes Down to This: Pay now to set up a Trust or Living Trust… or have your estate (beneficiaries) pay ten times more when you die and the estate must be probated.
Create Docs that Support Your Will or Trust
In support of the simple will, living will, or living trust, you want to make sure to have a financial power of attorney called a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, and medical power of attorney called an Advance Health Care Directive. In both cases, you designate someone as your proxy (agent). A proxy has the right to make decisions on your behalf. This is most beneficial in situations where a person becomes incapacitated due to an illness or injury.
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR FINANCES – Within the context of estate planning, the Durable Power of Attorney for Finances is a legal document that authorizes someone other than yourself (the agent) to act on your behalf. In this case you are termed the “principal” and they are the “agent.” Financial decisions regarding trust assets are made by your trustee. There are some instances where a financial decision does not involve a trust asset, such as dealing with retirement accounts, initiating or cancelling utility services, etc..
ADVANCE HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE – An Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) names an agent to make medical decisions in the event of incapacity and specifies a person’s end-of-life wishes. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family. This AHCD addresses difficult life-support decisions that family members may face while you are still alive. In this document, providing you are of sound mind when it is signed, what YOU want is made clear and legally binding.
Schedule a Free 30 Minute Legal Consultation
Does all this seem a bit intimidating? Well, to us it is all in a day’s work and we make it easy to get your initial questions answered in person. For those who have yet to visit our office, we offer a Free 30 Minute Legal Consultation.
Estate Planning Docs – Easy as 1,2 3 Four!
- View and Print out the certificate for your Free Consultation – Click Here
- Call 408-376-2755 to schedule your appointment at your convenience.
- Prepare a list of the questions you would like us to answer.
- Bring the printed certificate and your questions to your scheduled appointment.
NOTE: It helps if you put the burning questions at the top of your list so we make sure to get to those first!
We look forward to meeting you soon!
Photo Credit: Thank you to EssieB for the use of her photo of the yellow “house” taken in Alviso, CA. You can read more about this beautiful and haunted area on the border of San Jose here: All about Alviso
This blog contains general information and is not meant to apply to a specific situation. Please seek advice of counsel before proceeding as each case is unique.