Many people believe that if they have a will, they’ve got everything covered. However, that’s not always the case. For the family left behind, the more estate documentation you can leave them, the better. Specify your desires on the distribution of your assets when you pass will help your family avoid expensive and time-consuming conflicts over your estate.
You certainly don’t want to overwhelm them with a large sheaf of papers that will take weeks for them to read. But you want to make sure that all of your estate planning needs are covered. If it’s time for you to begin your estate planning—or review a plan you already have in place—here are some of the documents that are central to completing your estate plan
The basis of any estate plan will leave explicit instructions for many parts of your final affairs. This can include guardianship for any minor children, as well as the selection of an executor or other personal representative to handle your affairs and those of your estate. Although property distribution can also be handled with a will, trusts, beneficiary designations and joint ownership are becoming the norm to keep assets out of probate.
Revocable Living Trust
This is an immediately effective document that details the management and eventual distribution of your property in the event of your incapacity or passing. You’ll name yourself as a trustee, and anyone you choose as a co-trustee to handle your financial affairs and avoid the probate process. These trusts have multiple options for creation and structure, as well as the distribution of property after death.
The Trust is effective as soon as it is created and funded, and can be updated or revoked at any time prior to death or disability. Because these are complex documents, it’s best to work with your estate planning attorney to create all trusts.
Powers Of Attorney
These documents allow you to select one or more individuals to handle your affairs for you if needed. There are multiple types of POAs for different functions. Two of the most important are:
- Durable POA, which allows someone to handle your affairs in your absence, or in the event you are no longer able to take care of your legal and financial matters yourself. Should you become incapacitated and don’t pay bills as you did before, your family would have to go to court to request a conservatorship appointment, which will take time and money. A durable POA makes it easy for someone to pick up where you left off.
- Healthcare Proxy/Medical Directive allows you to select an agent to make decisions on your behalf regarding your healthcare when you are unable to do so for yourself. Like the Durable POA, your family would be required to go to court for a conservator to be appointed without it.
Discuss the POAs and the persons you select with your estate planning attorney to ensure that they are all done correctly and according to your needs and wishes.
If there is any property that you would prefer to keep out of the probate process, additional trusts are an alternative that allows the property to pass to their beneficiaries immediately. You can create these and fund them as needed, for as few or as many beneficiaries as you like. For instance, you can create an educational trust for each of your children and/or grandchildren, and have specific conditions for each one of them.
The Agent For Disposal Of Remains
This unpopularly named agent is about one job: what to do with your body after your death.
Whether you want a full funeral or memorial service in the religious faith of your choice, a non-denominational service, or want to “donate your body to science,” you just need to select someone to handle it for you. Discuss this part with your spouse or other individuals you’d like to name as an agent (and possibly one alternate), and then create the document to support your decision.
James C. Provenza, Chicago Estate Planning Attorney
Good estate planning and regular reviews are key to making sure your wishes are carried out, and your family and friends aren’t burdened with sorting through your affairs. You’ll make it easy on them at a time when they need all the help and emotional support they can get.
Work with an estate planning attorney who understands estate planning law and can help you design an estate plan that’s right for you and your family. James C. Provenza is an Illinois estate planning attorney with more than 25 years of estate planning experience. Call our firm today at (847) 729-3939, or use our online contact form.