The Most Important Documents for Estate Planning

Proper estate planning requires a lot of foresight. Planning for your future (as well as your firearms) will be important to your loved ones. It can mean the difference between creating conflict and confusion or a peaceful time to mourn. Ensuring that you have these essential estate planning documents will help you and your loved ones prepare for the future.

  1. A Will and Trust

A will and trust are the primary documents in your estate plan. You simply cannot go without these documents in most circumstances. A will and trust will help ensure that your property is passed on to your loved ones in a way that you have intended, especially when it comes to your firearms. 

When transferring your firearms onto loved ones after your death, these documents can ensure that the transfers do not create legal issues.  The most effective way to minimize legal problems that arise for the transfers following your death is to create a stand alone firearms trusts.  This trust will provide clear instructions on how to properly and legally transfer your firearms.

While you certainly can use other estate planning tools, wills and trusts cover a broad range of property in a way that other documents simply cannot address. Nonetheless, your will and trust should work in conjunction with your other estate planning tools. You should also adjust it periodically to address changes in your life.  At a minimum, you should review these documents at least once every three years.

  1. Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney allows you to designate an individual to take over the many legal and financial aspects of your life. It will only go into effect if you are unable to make these important decisions on your own. This document is specifically designed to be used while you are living but may not be competent to make these vital decisions.

If you do not have this document, the probate court may end up making these decisions for you or appointing someone to do so. If you want control over these vital choices in the future despite your level of competency, you should execute a durable power of attorney.

You may also want to create a healthcare power of attorney as well. This document specifically sets out who you would like to make your medical decisions if you become incapacitated. This document is often referred to as a “living will.”

  1. Beneficiary Designations

Not every valuable asset that you own will be addressed in your will or trust. Some assets pass to beneficiaries through other means. For example, your life insurance proceeds will not go through your will, but they are an important part of your assets. Ensuring that you have selected the correct beneficiary for your life insurance is a vital aspect of the estate planning process.

Other beneficiary-based estate planning tools may include property held with the right to survivorship, joint bank accounts, and retirement accounts. Although there is no one document to designate beneficiaries, you should ensure that all of the proper documentation is completed regarding each of these estate planning tools as soon as possible and update them as necessary.

Proper estate planning requires careful preparation and forethought. Our team at the Melissa Pearce & Associates, PLC can help you with this process. Contact us today for more information.

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