Creating an estate plan is essential to ensure a secure future for your family. An obvious first step is writing a will, but an effective estate plan should cover much more. One of the most challenging aspects is knowing what documents are needed to prepare an estate plan. An effective estate plan includes preparing at least four primary documents. It might also include more documents depending on your particular situation. Once you know the proper documents to have for an estate plan, you can confidently begin preparing your estate for the future.
What Documents Make Up Your Estate Plan?
A will is a document that allows you to decide who will take ownership of your assets after you pass. In addition, a will lets you appoint guardians for your minor children and pets. There are a few key things you should consider when drafting your will. You should consider how you want your assets divided, who will care for your children and pets, and who will ensure your wishes are carried out after your death. Making sure your will is valid under state law is also essential. Creating a clear and enforceable will is an important first step in ensuring a secure future for your family.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a document that allows someone to manage your property and finances in your absence. The person you grant this power to is called an attorney-in-fact. It is essential to appoint a trustworthy attorney-in-fact to ensure your financial affairs are well taken care of if you cannot manage your affairs yourself. You can tailor the powers granted by a power of attorney to meet your and your family’s specific needs.
An advanced directive lets you choose how medical decisions will be made for you if you are unable to make those decisions yourself. There are two primary ways an advanced directive aids in medical decisions. First, it allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions for you if you can not. Second, an advanced directive lets you communicate your medical preferences ahead of time. This helps your medical team know what to do if you are incapacitated.
A living trust puts your assets and property under the ownership and management of a trust. Depending on how your trust is structured, you can manage the trust yourself and appoint someone to take over once you pass. The main benefit of a living trust is that it will help your estate avoid the time and expense of going through probate. After you pass, the person you appoint to manage your trust can distribute the trust assets according to your preferences.
What Other Documents Might You Consider
Though the preceding four documents are needed to prepare an estate plan, there are other documents you might want to consider. Additional documents to have for an estate plan include:
- Tax Documents—it is important to make your tax documents readily accessible so your beneficiaries can file a final tax return for you;
- Financial information—your beneficiaries may need access to your financial accounts, so it is a good idea to provide them with the information they need to access your accounts, such as account numbers and passwords;
- Insurance policies—you can designate a beneficiary for your insurance policies so that the funds can bypass probate and go to your beneficiary faster. Also, make sure all of your insurance policies are up to date;
- Titles and deeds—ensure titles and deeds are up to date and can be accessed by your beneficiaries;
- Funeral arrangements—if you have any specific wishes, you should create a document detailing your preferences; and
- Digital information—it is increasingly important to make sure your beneficiaries can access digital accounts, so make sure you provide them with usernames and passwords.
We Are Here to Help
It can be challenging to know what documents are needed to prepare an estate plan and how to prepare them. With over 40 years of experience serving clients in Mississippi and Arkansas, the Harris Law Firm can help you make sure your estate plan is ready for anything life throws your way. Our experienced estate planning attorneys can answer all of your questions and help you plan for your family’s future. Contact the Harris Law Firm today to find out how we can help you with your estate plan.