While every estate plan is customized to client needs, assets, and goals, the basic documents are the same or similar for everyone. These are the basic (i.e. foundational) estate planning documents that most people need. Consult with a qualified estate planning attorney if you have any questions or concerns.
Will or pour-over-will
Every adult needs a will no matter how large or small the estate.
The will is used to appoint an executor, appoint guardians to raise minor children, and distribute assets.
A pour-over-will is used in estate plans that incorporate a revocable living trust. In this case, the only beneficiary of the will is the trust.
Revocable living trust
A revocable living trust is the center of the estate plan for many people. It provides benefits including probate avoidance, disability planning, asset organization, federal estate tax planning, family line protection, legacy planning, and asset protection for inheritances.
If you have a trust, your will is called a pour-over-will.
Powers of attorney
Everyone needs powers of attorney for finances and medical decisions.
If you have minor children, you also need a child care power of attorney which authorizes guardians to care for your children while you are alive, but unable to care for them.
Medical estate planning documents are:
- Health care power of attorney (aka power of attorney for medical decisions) this document authorizes your health care agent to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions yourself.
- HIPAA release authorizes medical staff to discuss your medical condition and medical records with your health care agents
- Living will prevents you from being kept alive by machines
- Organ donation form authorizes your organs to be donated to save up to 8 lives
First responder authorization
If you have minor children, you may want to have a first responder authorization. This legal document provides legal authority for trusted neighbors and friends to stay with your children until your named guardians arrive.
This prevents your children from being taken into protective custody (i.e. foster care.)
If you have questions about these basic estate planning documents, consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.