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What Estate Planning Documents are “Must-Haves”?


Estate planning documents are an essential part of your financial plan. A successful estate plan will ensure your assets are transferred to your desired heirs upon your death and include provisions to ensure your family members can access or control your assets should you become disabled. The three must have estate planning documents are a will, a general durable power of attorney and an advanced healthcare directive.

A will allows you to direct the disposition of your assets to ensure  they are disposed of according to your wishes. A properly drafted will allows you to name an executor to handle the administration of your estate. This may keep the probate courts from determining how to distribute your assets. The key is to be as specific as possible about both the asset(s) and the person who should receive the property.

A general durable power of attorney allows you to appoint a trusted individual as the agent to act of your behalf regarding financial matters if you are unable. This document gives your agent the power to transact real estate, enter into financial transactions and make other legal decisions as if he or she was you. This type of power of attorney is revocable by the principal at a time of his or her choosing, typically a time when the principal is deemed to be physically able, deemed mentally competent or upon death.

An advance healthcare directive allows you to designate another individual to make healthcare decisions on your behalf immediately or upon your incapacity. It is important to select someone who you trust, who shares your views and who would likely recommend a course of action that you would agree with. This person could literally have your life in their hands. Finally, an alternate surrogate should also be identified, in case your first surrogate  is unavailable or unable to act at the time needed.

Along with the three must have estate planning documents, you may want to consider creating a revocable living trust to hold property during your lifetime and distribute it privately without probate at your death.

If you would like to talk with an experienced estate planning attorney at Kira Doyle Law to make sure you have all the documents you need, please call our office in St. Petersburg FL, at (727) 537-6818.