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Three Essential Estate Planning Documents

Everyone can get sick and need help, everyone eventually dies. All adults, 18 years and older, should have these three essential estate planning documents. Certainly the content in these three documents can vary widely from person-to-person. Nevertheless, these materials help avoid expensive court proceedings and ensure your wishes are respected.

Three Essential Estate Planning Documents, What If You Don’t Have Them?

Guardianship: You could fall ill or have an accident leaving you incapacitated for a week, month or years. Petitioning the court for a Guardian becomes necessary if you have not executed a Power of Attorney giving an Agent authority to act for you financially, or a Health Care Power of Attorney giving an Agent authority to make medical decisions.

Intestacy, Having No will at Death: If you have no plan, then your assets pass under the State’s plan. Also, without a Will, there are no protective trusts. Further, your spouse or your children may receive more or less than you intend, leaving your wishes disregarded. The Intestacy Rules do not take your wishes into consideration. A Will allows you to craft a plan that reflects your real desires.

Essential Estate Planning Documents to Protect Your Wishes at Your Death

#1 The Will: Without a Will, the state decides where your assets pass at death. The State provides no protective trusts and disregards your wishes. Ensure respect for your wishes with a properly drafted Will. A well drafted Will also provides for your child’s care. Here are some examples of typical Will provisions.

  • Guardianship: Your Will allows you to appoint a Guardian of the Person. This person replaces you as the child’s parent.
  • Dynasty Trusts: Your Will can form protective trusts for your child, sometimes referred to as Dynasty Trusts. The terms can be crafted to fit your specific needs, but standard clauses allow the use of funds for your child and select an age when the child can be trusted to control the resources alone. These trusts build up a protective wall, sheltering the inheritance from your child’s creditors and future spouse.
  • Disclaimer Trusts: If you are married, your Will should create protective trusts for your spouse. This protection from creditors (as well as the next spouse) can be invaluable. If the trusts are Disclaimer Trusts, they are optional, giving your spouse the choice to use or not use the protection.
  • Trustee: The Trustee is the person who manages your child’s trust. Typically, the Trustee works with the Guardian to pay for the child’s expense until age 18, when the Trustee collaborates with the child. Therefore, we can craft the Trustee’s powers per your specific requirements.
  • Protector:. The Protector provides a check to the Trustee’s power. The Protector can remove and replace the Trustee without court approval.

Essential Estate Planning Documents to Protect You While You Are Alive

#2 The Financial Power of Attorney:. If you are incapacitated, the Durable General Power of Attorney appoints the person or persons who manage your assets. Without this document, your family is forced to file for Guardianship. The court is free to select the Guardian, who might not be a family member.

#3 The Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will: In a Medical Proxy and a Living Will you choose the person who will make your medical decisions if you are ever unable to act yourself. This person has the right to select your doctor and your treatment. Further, this surrogate has the right to refuse medical care. You should pick this person who will carry out your wishes. You must also communicate clearly your wishes to your surrogate.

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If you have any questions about these 3 essential estate planning documents or any other estate planning topics, feel free to contact us to schedule a free consultation. For more than two decades Klenk Law has focused only on Estate Law. We’ve seen it all, and this experience allows us to explain complex estate planning techniques clearly and concisely. We make it easy for you to understand the essential estate planning documents so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.

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