What are Some Typical Estate Planning Documents?
Last updated April 03, 2020
An estate plan goes far beyond a will, even though that is still an important part of any plan. A well-crafted estate plan will address every detail of your estate and your wishes for end-of-life care. Understanding all of the components will help you get thinking about the decisions you will need to make.
Below are some of the most popular documents used as part of the estate planning process:
- Will: Also known as the last will and testament, this document transfers your property to the people and organization of your choice. Your will also typically names your personal representative (or executor) to carry out your instructions and a guardian if you have minor children.
- Durable power of attorney for health care (or health care proxy): This designation appoints a person to make decisions regarding your health care in the event that you are incapacitated by a serious illness or injury and cannot communicate your wishes yourself.
- Living will (or directive to physicians): This document gives doctors and hospitals your wishes regarding the type of health care you wish to receive should you suffer permanent incapacity, such as an irreversible coma.
- Durable power of attorney for property: This designates a person to handle financial matters should you be unable or perhaps unavailable to do so. This can include paying bills and selling property.
- Living trust: This instrument holds legal title to manage your property. You can select the person or persons you want — even yourself — to serve as the trustee to carry out the instructions you want in the trust. You can also name a successor trustee to take over for you. Unlike a will, a trust usually becomes effective immediately and continues after your death. Most trusts are revocable, which means you can make changes and even to terminate it. Trusts also help you avoid or minimize the publicity of probate.
- Family limited partnership: This legal instrument can own and manage your property, similar to a trust, but it also has additional tax planning advantages. These are useful for those with large estates with a need to minimize federal and state estate taxes and protect assets for family members.
An estate planning attorney will be able to help you evaluate your choices and create a plan that protects your rights, wishes, and assets.