Estate Planning Documents Explained And Why You Should Not Avoid The Process

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Estate planning: a term that can evoke many emotions. It may make you uncomfortable to think about passing away or even becoming incapacitated. Or, perhaps, you are under the assumption that estate planning is for you only if you have sizable assets.

It’s time for a mindset change! Estate planning is life planning, and many of the documents you will need to complete during the estate planning process are so your wishes are carried out during your lifetime.

Estate planning is for everyone — parents, spouses, grandparents, same sex couples, even young adults. It is also for professionals and business owners. Estate planning is for those who are deeply involved in charities. Estate planning is for anyone who wants their wishes heard, and for anyone who has someone (or an entity) that they care about and want to see taken care of after they are gone.

Even as you come to understand what estate planning truly means and how important it is, the legal documents that are prepared as part of your estate plan may be overwhelming and confusing. Having a knowledgeable and dedicated attorney by your side can be invaluable.

Remembering that every person and every life plan is unique, here are the basic estate planning documents you should have in place. At Kira Doyle Law, we will work with you to complete an estate plan that is tailored to your specific familial situation, assets, wishes, desires, and people and entities you hold most dear.

Living Will

You may be wondering why there are two different kinds of wills. A Living Will is important for when you are alive, but terminally ill. In your Living Will, you can state your wishes regarding your medical care and the use of life-sustaining measures.  It works in conjunction with your Designation of Health Care Surrogate document (explained below) to provide a full set of directions to your physician. 

In our Living Will, we will present you with important situations and possible treatments that you will want to take time to consider. You will be able to give specific directions to your family and health care providers, which can be used if you are in a state where you are unable to do so yourself. Having this document available can give you peace of mind in knowing that your final wishes are being expressed and carried out.

Designation of Health Care Surrogate

In this document, you will name the person(s) you trust to make health care decisions for you should you not be able to communicate your wishes. This person is referred to as your “Health Care Surrogate.” Your Health Care Surrogate will be able to provide informed consent to health care providers in your best interest, receive any information concerning your mental and physical health, apply for benefits, and carry out the terms of your Living Will.

Declaration Naming Pre-need Guardian

This is an important document to have in the event you are determined to be incapacitated. In this declaration, you will name someone to serve as your “Guardian”. Your Guardian is court-appointed and who will act on your behalf, to perform the tasks necessary to care for your person and property. 

Durable Power of Attorney

The person you give power of attorney to may exercise his or her power only while you are still living. In this document, this person is referred to as your “Agent.” Your Agent can be given the rights to manage your assets and properties, to handle your financial matters, to access your web-based accounts, and more.

Our Durable Power of Attorney document spells out numerous types of transactions to eliminate questions and confusion about what your Agent can accomplish on your behalf.

Last Will & Testament

A Last Will & Testament is simply a legal document that explains your wishes and provides instructions for administration of your estate to the probate court after you pass away.

The main information provided in a Last Will & Testament is how you want your property distributed after you die, and who you have named to be responsible for wrapping up your affairs. This person, referred to as the “Personal Representative," will gather and distribute your property as you have specified, pay any remaining valid creditors, and manage your estate in any other way as may be required.

Revocable (“Living”) Trust

In a Revocable Trust, you will list out your assets and share your wishes for the disbursement of such assets and funds upon your death. This Trust is created while you are still living and can be updated, changed or terminated whenever you desire during your lifetime, but becomes irrevocable at your death.

Upon your death, any assets named in your Trust will avoid probate. However, assets not named in your Trust will be subject to probate, which can be a very lengthy and complicated process that many wish for their families to avoid. Additionally, a Pour-over Will can “pour-over” any uncovered assets into your Revocable Trust to complete your estate plan through the probate process.  The expectation and goal is that you will transfer all your property subject to probate to the Trust so that it will not be necessary to probate your Will.

Ask a St. Petersburg Estate Planning Attorney for Assistance

An estate plan is not something to be scared of or shy away from. It can be complex, however, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed with decisions to make and hard questions to answer. The experienced estate planning attorneys at Kira Doyle Law will guide you through the planning process step-by-step to make sure your assets are protected, your desires are heard, and you have a plan in place that best protects you and your family. If you are ready to begin your life planning, start by calling our St. Petersburg office at 727-537-6818 to schedule an appointment today!