7 Estate Planning Must Have Documents

Brief Summary

A successful estate plan will protect an owner’s investments, property, and other assets for end-of-life planning, as well as provides beneficiary family members direct distribution of trust value at the end of life.

Proper estate planning also involves giving permission to family members, physicians, or an attorney to carry out medical informed consent instructions for treatment in an emergency, or if incapacitated.

Trust and will formation make it possible to control and grow assets for the purpose of enriching final heirs. Without the proper planning and documents, a probate court review may result in unintended distribution of assets or escheat to state coffers. Planned giving specialists can read on to learn more about the benefits of estate planning tools for nonprofit charitable giving strategies.

The ‘7’ Main Estate Planning ‘Must Have’ Documents.

Brief Summary of the ‘Must Have’ Documents

A Living Will conveys what is to be done once a person is incapacitated. Often part of the estate planning process, a living will is advance directive given by a person while still alive that specifies requirements for end-of-life healthcare treatment. Preceding the “dying testate,” the living will is considered an important dimension of estate record. It reflects decisions about the administration and disposition of assets attached to a living trust. Living will administration is generally performed by a trustee who can be the creator of the trust, until they are incapacitated or pass on.

Financial control is considered one of the main constructive priorities of the estate planning process, as well as for the formation of its trust. The financial control of an estate and its trust is generally performed by a licensed CPA accountant or estate law attorney under the directive of the state’s original executor or trustee. In circumstances where the owner of the estate is terminally Ill, the transfer of an estate to a designated trustee by will or by a court, for purpose administration and financial oversight, durable financial power of attorney (DFPOA) may be enforced.

Beneficiary designation is a named person of an estate or will. Beneficiary designations are named within life insurance policies, investment retirement accounts (IRAs), 401(k)s, and other pension fund accounts assigning death benefits. Transfer of assets at the end of an account owner’s life will include Pay-on-death (POD) or Transfer-on-death (TOD) directives involving named beneficiaries. Estate directives also contain instructions for beneficiary designations and asset distribution with specified terms and conditions.

The revocable living trust enables the creator of the trust to terminate the agreement wholly or modify it according to preference during their lifetime. This is sometimes done with a joint tenant spouse in preparation of a terminally Ill spouse or common law partners end of life. A revocable living trust reduces the chances an estate will go to probate and protects it from creditor attachment once they are gone.

A letter of intent (“LOI”) is a last will and testament planning document that distills terms and conditions for funerary arrangements and distribution of assets to heirs and beneficiaries. Contiguous with a trust or will, the LOI outline details about transactions and transfers of property titles and other important facts not otherwise present within an estate’s trust account documents. Other issues described within a LOI are details related to the location and disposition of personal effects, and other financial details such as outstanding debts not accounted for in living trust documentation.

The process for designating a Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPA) agent responsible for determination of incapacitation and requirements and informed consent for medical care is performed by way of advance directives in a written living will. Living will formation enables a person to specify their preferences for medical procedure, healthcare treatment, and end-of-life care in advance. Appointment of HCPA is accompanied by designation of family or other responsible party as a healthcare agent, who is a guardian entrusted with the duty to make medical informed consent decisions on behalf of the person whom the living will concerns.

The designation of a guardian is an ancillary part of living will directives, specifying a loved one or other responsible party as an agent or trustee, should the party whom the directive concerns no longer be able to act on their own. In circumstances where there is no living family member appointed to guardianship, a person may elect Designation of Guardianship as part of Directive to Physicians, Medical Power of Attorney, or Statutory Durable Power of Attorney. In some circumstances, a court responsible for determining the medical or mental health condition of an estate owner, will assign a guardian with the assistance of a licensed attorney and physician.

Toolkit Recommendations

For those already involved in the estate planning or administration process, the complexity of documentation preparation and the administrative functions of the controlling and investing assets for future benefit of the estate and its heirs, is known. Here are expert recommended resources for the formation and control of estate trust and will, including the creation of living will, DFPOA, HPCA, LOI, and beneficiary designations. Plan for the future of your family or client with forms and advice from a professional financial advisor. Consider a charitably-minded financial advisor or attorney if you have philanthropic goals.

A will is a great place to start using the LegacyPlanner™, but it’s only the beginning.


Key Takeaways

  • Estate planning is not only for the wealthy. Everyone in the family stands to benefit from trust account investment and designated income distribution, both before and after a decedent has passed.
  • Without proper estate or trust planning and last testament and will documentation, a probate court may award unintended distribution of assets.
  • Estate planning living will formation gives permission to family members or an attorney to carry out healthcare proxy preferences for medical informed consent on behalf of the person whom those advance directives concern, in the event of incapacitation.
  • Find out how to benefit from the ‘7’ Main Estate Planning Tools.
  • Planned giving is value-added estate planning strategy.
  • Related: 27 Estate Planning Documents You Need Before Your Journey
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