Common Documents an Estate Planning Attorney Can Draft

By  //  October 5, 2020

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There is more to estate planning than just a will. There are some common documents that an estate planning lawyer can draft that will make your estate planning much more efficient. While some documents can be done yourself, having an estate planning attorney draft these documents for you can make all the difference.

Trusts and Wills

A will or a trust is one of the main components of every estate plan and it’s necessary even if you don’t have a lot of assets. Wills will make sure that property is distributed according to your wishes. Some trusts can also help limit legal challenges. Just having one is usually not enough and the wording is important.

A will should be written in a way that is also consistent with what you have already passed outside of the will. For example, if you have named your sister as your beneficiary on your life insurance policy then you can’t also give that same asset to someone else since this will lead to a will contest and legal battle.

Living Trust

A living trust is a tool you can use to pass assets to your heirs without time-consuming and expensive court proceedings. However, unlike a typical will, a living trust can be used to distribute property now while you are still living, as well as after your death. If you have substantial wealth or property then this can also provide some tax savings.

Medical Powers of Attorney

Medical powers of attorney will designate another person, usually a family member or a spouse, to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event that you are incapacitated. With this document, you should pick someone who shares your views and someone you trust since this person could have your life in his or her hands. The medical power of attorney should also have a backup in case the initial pick isn’t able to act.

Durable Power of Attorney

With a power of attorney, someone you assign can act on your behalf when you aren’t able to do so. If you don’t have a power of attorney then a court can decide what happens to your assets if you are found mentally incompetent. Keep in mind that the court’s decision may not be what you have wanted.

This document gives the power of attorney the authority to enter into financial transactions and make decisions for you. It can make sense to set up your spouse for power of attorney, but in other cases, it can be better to have a trusted friend or family member.

Letter of Intent

This is a document that is left to your beneficiary or executor. A letter of intent helps define what you want to be done with a particular asset. Some also include special requests or funeral details. A letter of intent may not be valid in the law but can help a judge know more about your distribution of assets if your will is invalid for some reason.

Beneficiary Designations

If you don’t have beneficiaries listed in a legal document then the court is left to decide what to do with these funds. A judge who is unaware of your intent, beliefs, and situation won’t likely make the same decisions you would have made. A named beneficiary needs to be mentally competent and over the age of 21. If your beneficiaries aren’t both then a court can still end up getting involved.

Guardianship Designations

Many wills and trusts may incorporate this but some don’t. If your will or trust doesn’t dictate what will happen to your kids then it’s something you need to have a lawyer draft. Picking a guardian can be overlooked but it’s incredibly important. Whoever you choose to raise your kids should share your views, be financially sound, and be willing to raise your children.

Just like with other beneficiary designations, a backup should also be named. Without this, courts can decide that your children live with family members you may not have chosen or sometimes, in an extreme case, become wards of the state.

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