A comprehensive estate plan can be made of multiple documents, which can be tailored to meet your individual needs and the needs of your family. If you are new to planning your estate, it can be difficult to know what your goals are to protect and distribute your assets. A Springfield estate planning attorney can help you determine your goals and effectively protect any size of estate that you have.
Last Will and Testament
A will is one of the most basic documents in an estate plan, and it is typically what individuals will create without a comprehensive estate plan. It can be updated throughout your life to reflect changes in your wishes as your family grows or you gain new assets. A will does the following:
- Inventories the assets in your estate
- Lists the heirs to those assets and outlines how to distribute the assets
- Names an executor who is in charge of paying debts and distributing the estate
- Designates a legal guardian for minor children if you have them
A will can list which heirs you want to benefit from your estate, but it does not allow those heirs to avoid probate court. Other documents in a comprehensive estate plan are necessary to keep your estate out of probate.
During probate, the court will review your will to determine if it is legally valid. If it is not, then your will is discarded by the court, and your estate will be distributed according to state succession laws. A confusingly worded or contradictory will can also cause complications, resulting in disputes between heirs and family members. Working with an attorney can help prevent these potential issues.
Similar to a will, a trust allows you to inventory assets, determine their beneficiaries, and place a trustee in charge of the trust’s contents. While a will is a public document, and the assets named in it go through probate court, a trust is a private legal entity. This means that assets that have been legally placed in a trust do not go through probate, as they never enter the state’s jurisdiction. The assets remain in the care of the trust and transfer from your oversight to the trustee’s management.
Avoiding probate can make the distribution of your estate much faster, less expensive, and less stressful for your heirs and beneficiaries. A trust is the most common way to avoid probate. Trusts can be used for many purposes and are either revocable or irrevocable.
A revocable trust is more common, as it allows you, as the creator of the trust, to maintain control over the contents of the trust. You can alter a revocable trust throughout your lifetime.
An irrevocable trust can be altered, but it is much more difficult. You must usually go through the court and have permission from all the beneficiaries named in the trust to change it. An irrevocable trust can avoid certain taxes that a revocable trust cannot.
Powers of Attorney
Nearing the end of your life, contracting a serious illness, or suffering a sudden accident can result in disability and incapacitation. When you are incapable of communicating your wishes or making decisions due to incapacitation, powers of attorney can give those abilities to someone you trust. This can safeguard your interests and your person. Two common forms of powers of attorney include:
- Healthcare Power of Attorney: This gives someone the legal power to make decisions about your healthcare, such as where you receive care, the providers who care for you, the procedures you receive, and your end-of-life care. Your healthcare power of attorney can also follow directions listed in your medical directives.
- Durable or Property Power of Attorney: This provides someone with the legal power to make financial actions and decisions on your behalf. This includes paying bills, selling property, managing investments, and other essential financial needs.
Advanced Medical Directives and Living Will
Medical directives are part of a living will, and they list your preferences for healthcare. You can list:
- The procedures you allow
- Life support wishes
- Desires for pain management
- Spiritual beliefs concerning treatment
- Where you want to receive medical care
These instructions can be implemented by your healthcare power of attorney.
Q: What Will Be Included in a Proper Estate Plan?
A: Each estate plan will have unique documents, depending on the needs of the creator of the plan and their family. Common documents include:
- Last will and testament
- Living will and medical directives
- Irrevocable or revocable trusts
- Durable power of attorney
- Medical power of attorney
Your attorney can help you determine which documents are most beneficial for you.
Q: What Are the 3 Main Priorities That You Want to Ensure With Your Estate Plan?
A: Some of the most common priorities that people have when they create a comprehensive estate plan are:
- Making decisions about your medical care and the management of your finances if you become incapacitated
- Ensuring that your estate is protected throughout your life and after your death to provide the most benefits for yourself and your heirs
- Defining your beneficiaries and minimizing the stress and cost of probate court
Q: What Are the 7 Steps in the Estate Planning Process?
A: Common steps in the estate planning process include:
- Inventorying your estate, including all assets and debts
- Considering the needs of your family and/or beneficiaries
- Reviewing the tax and inheritance laws specific to your state and the value of your estate
- Deciding the beneficiaries of your estate and the distribution of the estate
- Protecting your interests by planning end-of-life care
- Ensuring that your estate plan is legally valid by discussing it with an estate planning attorney
- Planning to regularly review and update the documents in your estate plan
Q: What Is the Difference Between a Will and Estate Planning?
A: A will is typically one document in an estate plan. Comprehensive estate planning includes multiple legal documents to protect your estate and interests, including powers of attorney, a living will, medical directives, and trusts. A will lists your wishes for the distribution of your estate, but it does not avoid probate court like a comprehensive estate plan.
Protect Your Family and Your Estate
A comprehensive estate plan can feel overwhelming or complicated as it deals with end-of-life considerations and important legal decisions. A knowledgeable Springfield estate planning attorney can help make the process manageable and guide you to making informed decisions about your estate. Contact Stange Law Firm today.