What Are the Most Important Estate Planning Documents

Everyone needs to create a comprehensive estate plan in their lifetime. This article focuses on some of the most important estate planning documents and how a seasoned legal team can help you craft them to best suit your needs.

Do I Need to Write a Will?

It is recommended that you create a will to ensure that surviving family members and friends may follow your wishes when it comes time to distribute your assets. A will expresses who gets your assets as well as who is in control of them. You will want to keep in mind that the last will and testament only control assets that are owned individually and do not have a beneficiary designation.

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A will must go through probate, which is used to settle disputes. If there is a discrepancy between those inheriting assets through a will, the judge is mandated by law to settle the dispute, despite its validity. Essentially, this means that the government is in control and that the information is public.

How Is A Trust Different from A Will?

A trust is a contract that allows a person to choose a trustee and authorize the trustee to take care of their assets until the beneficiary inherits them. It is important to understand the numerous title names concerned in a trust. First, the individual who constructs a trust is referred to as a trustor. The person who inherits the assets from the trust is known as a beneficiary. A third party’s goal is to manage the trust on behalf of the beneficiary.

There are several different kinds of trusts that you may want to take into account as you look into your estate planning needs. Depending on your situation, you may need one or more options to ensure that your estate plan is well-rounded. Some of the common types that our firm can help you create include the following revocable living trust, irrevocable trust, irrevocable tax trust, and a special needs trust.

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What Is A Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney allows an individual to appoint a trusted individual to make financial, medical, or other decisions in the event that they become incapacitated. There are several different types of this legal documents that can be used depending on an individual’s situation.

What If I Have A Child with Special Needs?

If you have a child with special needs, you may benefit from drafting a special needs estate plan. This includes those who cannot live independently because they have certain conditions, such as autism or Down Syndrome. Other individuals who may benefit from this plan are those with progressively debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or ALS.

First-party special needs trusts can only be created by a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian and may only be funded by the beneficiary’s funds. To qualify, the beneficiary has to be under the age of 65. Recognize that these types of trusts are irrevocable. Typically, first-party special needs trusts are created when a beneficiary is to receive or inherit funds through a lawsuit or settlement.

What Is A Caregiver Agreement?

Care contracts, or caregiver contracts, are critical tools used to document expenses and/or care provided between family members when a person is receiving care. However, they are not in personal care or skilled nursing facility.

Whenever you have a family member taking care of another family member within a caregiving situation, you must document the care provided, hours worked, and amount of resources transferred in exchange for these services with a valid contract. This contract will permit your parent’s assets to compensate a family member, whether it be now or later down the road. After the contract is enforceable and in writing, it provides a planning opportunity in the event that the level of care elevates and the family needs to look for medical assistance in the future.

What Is A Life Estate Deed?

A life estate deed creates a partial interest for the remainder of your life on somebody else’s property. It is a useful tool to transfer ownership of the property while guaranteeing that your family does not kick you out of the house. This is a safer alternative to selling or transferring the house to a family member. It also allows the person that is either buying or selling the life estate deed to appropriately and adequately allocate who pays the real estate taxes and utility costs on the property without having issues down the line in achieving benefit eligibility or medical assistance.

How Often Do I Need to Update My Estate Plan?

It is highly recommended that if you have an estate plan that has not been updated in over three years, you take a look at it and think about making some changes. Estate plans should also be reexamined after specific life events occur that can change your lifestyle and needs. Some of these lifestyle changes can include marriage, divorce, having a new child, a family death, or moving to a different state.

Do I Need to Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer?

Everyone needs to have an estate plan that protects their assets long after they are gone. This should be done regardless of age, financial means, etc. A well-rounded estate plan created with an experienced attorney can help ensure your beneficiaries are properly taken care of after you pass away.

At Heritage Elder Law & Estate Planning, our skilled attorneys are committed to helping our clients take control of their future with our tailored elder law, estate planning, and probate services. Our firm acknowledges that every family is unique and that individual circumstances and family dynamics should be taken into account when considering future estate planning. Whether you are facing matters involving estate planning, estate administration, or elder law, you will benefit from retaining the services of an attorney that is equipped with the knowledge and experience required to represent your best interests. Our legal team is just that. Contact us today to get started. We look forward to hearing from you.

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