No one likes to think about death. However, it is important to be prepared for the inevitable at any age. Creating an estate plan is a crucial step everyone should take. An estate plan is comprised of a series of legal documents that serve different purposes. Below, we will list some of the most common estate planning documents every person should consider having as part of their plan. At Centonzio Law, PLLC, our experienced estate planning attorneys help individuals and families in Kansas City, MO, and Largo, Florida, create comprehensive and effective estate plans tailored to their needs and circumstances. If you need assistance with establishing an estate plan, consider contacting our attorneys by calling (816) 710-9455 (Missouri) or (727) 900-7290 (Florida).
What Are the Benefits of Having an Estate Plan?
Many people are not sure whether or not they can benefit from creating an estate plan. Contrary to popular belief, having an estate plan is beneficial for everyone regardless of their age, wealth, or health. These are some of the most prominent benefits of establishing an estate plan:
- Provide instructions for the distributions of assets upon death
- Appoint trusted persons to make financial and medical decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person
- Choose guardians for minor children
- Appoint the executor of the estate
- Prevent unnecessary conflict and disputes between the deceased person’s family members
- Protect the deceased person’s business operations
- Ensure that the deceased person’s inheritance ends up in the right hands
When a person dies without a Last Will and Testament, a probate court will distribute their assets to heirs according to intestacy laws in the state where the deceased lived. In Florida, if a person does not leave behind a Will, the decedent’s assets are distributed to their heirs in compliance with Section 732.102, Florida Statutes.
What Estate Planning Documents Do You Need?
While people generally understand the importance of creating an estate plan, many do not know where to start. The first step a person should take when creating an estate plan is to identify all legal documents that may be necessary to meet their goals and objectives. Below is an estate planning documents checklist. Each document serves a different purpose.
1. Last Will and Testament
A Will is one of the most critical estate planning documents. This document allows a person to provide instructions on how they want their assets to be distributed after their death. The Testator (the person who creates a Will) can also name the executor of their estate. The executor will be in charge of handling estate administration after the Testator’s passing. Besides, the Testator may name guardians who would care for minor children and pets. If a person dies without a Will, the probate court will appoint the executor of the decedent’s estate. Typically, probate courts appoint the deceased person’s surviving spouse or adult child to handle the estate administration.
2. Revocable Living Trust
A revocable living trust is another critical document in an estate plan. This document allows the Trustor (the person who sets up a trust) to name a Trustee to manage their trust property. While a Will is used to distribute the decedent’s property after their death, a trust can include the terms and conditions that beneficiaries must meet before they receive trust property. A common example of trust terms is waiting for the beneficiary to reach a certain age.
3. Financial Power of Attorney
With this estate planning document, the person who creates it can name a person who would have the authority to manage their financial affairs and make financial and legal decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. The appointed person handles financial affairs on behalf of the principal (the person who established a power of attorney), including filing taxes, selling property, and others.
4. Healthcare Power of Attorney
Unlike a financial power of attorney, which grants someone the authority to manage the principal’s financial and legal matters, a healthcare power of attorney is used to appoint a person to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal should they become incapacitated. Healthcare decisions include the power to consent, refuse or withdraw consent to any type of medical procedure, treatment, or surgery.
5. Living Will
A Living Will, which is also referred to as a healthcare directive, allows a person to outline in advance the type of medical procedures they want and do not want to undergo if they ever become unable to communicate their wishes or make decisions on their behalf. This document can be used to complement a healthcare power of attorney, helping the appointed agent understand the principal’s wishes regarding medical care. At Centonzio Law, PLLC, our estate planning attorneys help individuals in Missouri and Florida develop effective and comprehensive estate plans based on their specific needs and goals.
How To Create an Estate Plan
The common estate planning documents mentioned above can make up a solid plan. However, a person creating an estate plan needs to take the following two steps when preparing a plan:
- Identify goals. The first step is to identify objectives. What should an estate plan achieve in the long run? Everyone has different goals, which is why it is essential to understand what a person wants to accomplish when establishing an estate plan because each legal document serves a unique purpose.
- Make a list of assets. When creating an estate plan, it is vital to make a list of all assets. Once a person dies, their assets become their estate. Some assets may be distributed through the probate process, which is governed by state laws.
Probate is a court-supervised process during which the court identifies the deceased person’s assets and distributes them to the decedent’s beneficiaries. Probate operates differently in every state. Consider visiting with an experienced probate attorney to learn more about the probate process in your state.
Estate Planning Attorneys at Centonzio Law, PLLC
No two estates are alike. That is why a person needs to understand their unique circumstances and the goal they want to achieve when creating an estate plan. At Centonzio Law, PLLC, we help people develop creative and effective estate planning strategies tailored to our clients’ specific needs and goals. We understand that establishing an estate plan can be complicated and daunting, which is why we assist individuals and families with their planning needs in Missouri and Florida. Our attorneys can review an individual’s unique situation to determine which common estate planning documents can benefit that particular person. Consider scheduling a case review with our attorneys by calling (816) 710-9455 (Missouri) or (727) 900-7290 (Florida).