Eight Estate Documents Everyone Needs

Estate planning helps take the decision-making stress off you and your family. Having documents in place will allow you to define life’s big decisions, including how you would like your medical care and finances managed. Family members and healthcare providers will be clear of what you want if you are unable to speak for yourself.We can help you navigate the process and coordinate with an estate planning attorney to make sure your updated documents align with your financial plan. Take a look at the eight essential documents you’ll need.

1. LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT Everyone with assets needs a will. This legal document identifies the property you’d like to have distributed to your heirs. It specifies last wishes, names guardians for minors and identifies who is responsible for managing the estate and implementing your wishes. If you have kids and don’t specify guardians for them, the state will choose on your behalf. And, without direction on how you want your assets distributed, the state will decide via probate court.

2. DURABLE FINANCIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY A durable power of attorney gives someone you trust the authority to handle your financial and legal decisions should you be unable to do so yourself. It can be a family member, attorney or friend, as long as it’s someone you believe will act in your best interests.

3. DURABLE MEDICAL POWER OF ATTORNEY Your healthcare proxy or durable power of attorney will need relevant health information and a copy of your living will. Include a HIPAA provision so your physicians can disclose your medical information to whomever will make medical decisions for you.

4. LIVING WILL AND MEDICAL DIRECTIVES In a living will, you specify what types of life sustaining medical treatment you do or do not prefer if you were to become terminally ill. Medical directives apply in the event you are unable to communicate your wishes for treatment.

5. REVOCABLE OR LIVING TRUST In many states, a living trust can be used to distribute property a little more privately than a will. It also can help avoid a costly and stressful probate court process and may offer substantial tax benefits.

6. BENEFICIARY FORMS For certain assets, such as insurance policies and retirement accounts, the beneficiary form prevails over the will. So your named beneficiaries will receive those assets unless you update the beneficiary forms. Keep current copies and update the forms after a life change, such as a divorce, marriage or birth of a child.

7. LETTER OF INSTRUCTION This letter includes any of your wishes not covered by a will (e.g., whether you want to donate your organs).

8. LIST OF CONTACTS List contact information for family, friends and your professional advisors who will need access to your documents to oversee your legal, financial, insurance and health matters.

NEXT STEPS:
• Schedule a review to update existing documents.
• Identify any major life changes that should trigger an estate plan review.
• Make sure the right people have updated copies of your documents so they can help execute your wishes.

Material created by Raymond James for use by its advisors. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Raymond James is not affiliated with any other entity listed herein. ©2016 Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC.Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. does not provide advice on tax or legal issues. These matters should be discussed with the appropriate professional.

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