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The Five Most Important Estate Planning Documents


The five most important estate planning documents include:

  • Your will
  • A trust
  • Powers of attorney
  • Advanced medical directives
  • Beneficiary designations

These five documents combine to form a foundational estate plan and make it easier for your loved ones to manage your care and finances if you become incapacitated or pass away. While it can be difficult for an individual to consider these potential life hurdles, a qualified Dade City, FL elder law attorney can help you through the process.

Your estate plan begins with your will 

The biggest question in terms of estate planning is: Where do I start? You start with your will. Your will provides the foundation of your estate plan. If you don’t have a will, then your assets are divided in accordance with an algorithm created by the state of Florida to distribute your assets. This is called intestate succession. Intestate succession is employed when someone dies without a will, trust, or other document describing what should happen to their property when they pass.

What should I put in my will? 

What to put in your will depend on whether or not you create a trust for your assets. In other words, it varies based on your other estate planning documents. If you have only a will, then you will need to include all of your property, including personal assets, in the will. When creating a will, the basics include:

  • Your personal information
  • Legal language that declares your testamentary intent
  • The person who will act as executor
  • The identity of godparents for minor children or pets
  • A list that describes your property and which beneficiaries will inherit it

Revocable living trusts 

The second important estate planning document you need to know about is a trust. Trusts can be used to distribute your assets after you pass. While a will can accomplish the same thing, a trust has several advantages for you and your heirs. Typically, your assets would pass through probate in a will. The process can be long and expensive. Trusts distribute assets directly to your heirs when you pass and avoid probate entirely. They are an essential ingredient in a comprehensive estate plan.

Powers of attorney 

This document outlines who controls your assets if you should become incapacitated. It is known as a durable power of attorney. You can also have a medical power of attorney who will make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. These are essential documents for any estate plan.

Advanced medical directives or living wills 

This document tells doctors what type of services you do or do not wish to have when a medical event occurs. The most popular provision of a living will is a do-not-resuscitate order.

Designating beneficiaries to important assets or accounts 

Assets that can be transferred to beneficiary designation include life insurance policies, retirement accounts, bank accounts, trusts, and more.

Contact an Experienced Elder Law Attorney Today 

The Dade City elder law attorneys at The Law Offices of Laurie R. Chane represent the interests of those creating an estate plan. Call our office today to schedule an appointment and we can begin discussing your wishes right away.

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