While estate planning can be complicated especially when you have a big estate and lots of assets, the process essentially boils down to deciding who will receive your assets and who will manage your estate upon you passing away or being incapacitated. For best results, having an experienced attorney on your side will ensure your estate plan has all the necessary requirements. In fact, there are a few items that should be on every estate planning checklist.
Last Will and Testament
As part of your estate plan, you should have a last will and testament. Your will is used to cover essential elements like:
- Keeping track of all your assets including any personal possessions, real estate, and any intangible assets like investments and bank accounts.
- Naming beneficiaries who will receive your assets. Beneficiaries might include friends, family, or organizations like nonprofits.
- Naming guardians for your minor and children and even pets.
An Advance healthcare directive (AHCD)
The purpose of an Advance healthcare directive (AHCD) is clearly designating how you would like certain medical actions to play out if you’re unable to make your own medical decisions. An AHCD document consists of two parts:
- Living will: With a living will, you can outline your medical preferences if you’re unable to communicate. Although people tend to think of patients when on breathing tubes or in a coma, a living will can cover a wide array of medical decisions. These decisions include medication, treatment options, surgical procedures, end-of-life care, and much more.
- A medical power of attorney: With a medical power of attorney you can choose someone to make crucial medical decisions for you if you’re unable to.
Financial Power of Attorney (POA)
You’ll also want a financial power of attorney (POA). This person’s role is to legally manage your property and finances for you after you pass away. Other duties may include:
- Paying bills
- Handling bank deposits
- Managing your real estate or other properties
- Using your assets to pay your medical bills and/or support your family
- Various Documents
Your estate plan should also include various documents that might range from:
- Financial information: From insurance policies, bank statements, credit card debt, tax returns, loans, retirement plans/policies, investments, etc., you’ll want a comprehensive summation of all your financial information.
- Identity documents: You should also make a copy of all your proof of identity documents. Social security card, passport, birth, marriage, and death certificates, military discharge papers, divorce settlements, etc.
- Titles and property deeds: Also have copies of all your titles and property deeds handy. Homes, vehicles, and any other real estate are all examples.
Finally, you’ll want to write out your funeral wishes so your loved ones know what to do following your death. This can include whether you’d like to be buried or cremated, any charities you’d like to donate to, and how you would like the actual funeral process to go.
There’s a lot of vital information you’ll want to include in your estate plan. To make the process easier, you can hire an estate planning lawyer. Our friends at Carpenter & Lewis PLLC have a team of qualified attorneys that can help!