Which documents are most important in a PA estate plan?

There are a number of important documents that you should include in your estate plan. Read on and give our skilled Pennsylvania estate planning attorneys a call today to learn more.

What documents should be included in an estate plan?

1. Last will and testament
In your will, you decide who you want to inherit specific 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 acquiring your assets are known as your beneficiaries. They can be your family members, friends, or even nonprofits that are important to you. In your will, you can also appoint guardians for your minor children and your pets, and choose an executor to carry out the wishes.

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 commodity that “owns” the property you put into it while still allowing you to use and maintain that property while you are living. A revocable living trust requires more upkeep than a will, but it allows your assets to avoid the time and expense of probate. After you pass away, assets in a revocable living trust can be assigned to your heirs quickly and privately.

3. Beneficiary designations
Certain assets can skip probate (the court-supervised legal process of allocating your assets) and instead transmit right to a beneficiary after you pass away. These kinds of assets are referred to 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 instance, your bank or life insurance provider) and name a beneficiary for it.

4. Advance healthcare directive (AHCD) / living will
An advance healthcare directive permits you to portray how decisions should be made about your medical care if you are ever incapable of making those decisions on your own. There are typically two parts to an AHCD document, a living will and a medical power of attorney. A living will helps you to draft 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 choose someone, known as your healthcare agent, to make healthcare decisions for you if you are incapable of doing so.

6. Proof of identity documents
This helps your executor if you have all your identity documents in one suitable location. This includes your Social Security card; birth, marriage, and divorce certificates; prenuptial agreements; divorce settlements; and any Armed Forces discharge papers.


Friedman Schuman is an experienced and dedicated legal resource for clients throughout Pennsylvania. Contact Friedman Schuman today to schedule a consultation.

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