There are a number of documents that are critical in order to create a comprehensive estate plan. Continue reading and give our firm a call to speak with one of our dedicated and experienced Pennsylvania estate planning attorneys. Our legal team is here to help you prepare for your future.
What documents should be included in an estate plan?
1. Last will and testament
In your will, you determine who you want to inherit certain assets and property once you pass away. This includes your physical assets, such as real estate and personal possessions, in addition to intangible assets, like bank and investment accounts. Those obtaining your assets are referred to as your beneficiaries. They can be your family members, friends, or even nonprofits that are important to you. In your will, you can also designate guardians for your minor children and your pets, and choose an executor to carry out the wishes in your will.
2. Revocable living trust
Similar to a will, a revocable living trust is a legal instrument that allows you to distribute your assets once you pass away. A revocable living trust is a legal entity that “owns” the property you put into it while still permitting you to use and maintain that property while you are living. A revocable living trust requires more maintenance than a will, but it permits your assets to evade the time and expense of probate. Once you pass away, assets in a revocable living trust can be allocated to your heirs fast and confidentially.
3. Beneficiary designations
There are particular assets that can skip probate (the court-supervised legal process of allocating your assets) and instead transmit directly to a beneficiary once you pass away. These kinds of assets are known as non-probate assets and include 401(k) accounts, pensions, and life insurance policies. In order for these assets to skip probate, you have to reach out to each institution where you have a non-probate asset (for example, your bank or life insurance provider) and name a beneficiary for it.
4. Advance healthcare directive (AHCD) / living will
An advance healthcare directive allows you to portray how determinations should be made about your medical care if you are ever unable to make those decisions on your own. There are generally two parts to an AHCD document, a living will and a medical power of attorney. A living will allows you to outline your medical care choices in the event you are unable to communicate them. These choices can be about medication, treatment options, surgical procedures, end-of-life care, and more. With a medical power of attorney, you select someone, called your healthcare agent, to make healthcare decisions for you if you’re unable to.
6. Proof of identity documents
It helps your executor if you have all your identity documents in one convenient location. This includes your Social Security card; birth, marriage, and divorce certificates; prenuptial agreements; divorce settlements; and any Armed Forces discharge papers.
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