Estate Planning Documents Everyone Should Have

I recently gave a presentation on the estate planning documents people should have, and it seemed like a good idea to share the information with you.

The following is a list of estate planning documents everyone should have.  Some are documents needed while you are alive and some are documents needed upon your death.

While you are alive

Living Will states that, if you are going to die within a relatively short period of time, it is your desire that your life not be prolonged by the administration of life-sustaining procedures.

Healthcare Power of Attorney authorizes the person named to make healthcare decisions for you when, in the judgment of your attending physician, you are unable to make those health care decisions.

Durable General Power of Attorney authorizes the person named to handle your financial affairs.  The General Power of Attorney may be effective immediately upon signing or may be effective upon written certification by your personal physician that you are no longer capable, by reason of either a physical or mental condition, of competently handling financial affairs or that your ability to do so has become substantially impaired.  Both the General Power of Attorney and the Healthcare Power of Attorney is “durable” which means that they are not affected by your disability, incompetency or incapacity.

Revocable Living Trust, if you have a trust-based estate plan.  The Trust is in effect while you are alive and has assets, especially real estate, in it.  Generally, you are the Trustee until your death or incompetency.

Upon your death

Declaration of Designee for Final Disposition names the person that will have the sole responsibility for making decisions concerning the final disposition of your remains and the ceremonies to be performed after your death.  This needs to be kept with your Healthcare Power of Attorney.

Original Will or Trust. Either the Will or the Trust states how your assets are to be distributed to your beneficiaries upon your death and states who will be the Executor and/or Successor Trustee.  The Will only applies to assets that are solely in your name.  The Trust only applies to assets that are in the Trust; this includes assets that listed the Trust as the beneficiary.

Personal Property Memorandum is referred to in your Will or Trust.  It names who is to receive certain items of tangible personal property.  It is the duty of your Executor or your Trustee, as the case may be, to distribute the items listed in the Memorandum to the designated recipients.