There certainly are some "non-negotiables" when it comes to the basics of estate planning.
While you never want to "over-lawyer" your estate plan, you do not want to pull up short either.
After all, estate planning is how you determine what happens to you and your property when you can no longer make decisions due to incapacity or death.
Without proper estate planning, you risk leaving a big old mess behind.
That means an already tough process will be made even tougher for your loved ones.
An experienced estate planning attorney is essential when it comes to translating your objectives into just the right legal language.
It is a good idea to keep backed up scans of the original signed legal documents, too.
Now, back to your original question regarding the bear necessities of estate planning.
We turn to a recent Nerd Wallet article titled "10 Keys to Proper Estate Planning."
While you should click over and read the original article, it identifies some key legal documents you should have in place without delay.
So, what are the bear necessities?
An Advance Health Care Directive (and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions).
This is how you provide for your healthcare wishes when you are unable to communicate your wishes.
You appoint an agent you know and trust to go to bat for you with the medical world.
You do not want the default process, whereby a judge appoints a "guardian" to make these decisions for you under the judge's supervision.
Think Terri Schaivo.
By the way, make sure this document incorporates HIPAA release language so your agents
Ask your estate planning attorney about the one specific to your state, as various states have their own nuances.
A Durable Power of Attorney (for Financial Matters).
Kind of the kissing cousin to the advance health care directive, this legal document lets you designate an individual to manage your financial affairs should you become incapacitated.
If you fail to complete this form and you need help, a judge may appoint someone for you.
A Last Will and Testament.
In Kansas and Missouri, a will is the document most commonly deployed to appoint guardians for orphaned minor children.
In addition, a will can provide for the distribution of your assets (other than those passing by "beneficiary designation" or some other non-probate transfer method).
A Living Trust.
If your estate has grown more complex (e.g., real estate in multiple states, business interests, etc.), then this is another way to transfer property upon your death outside of probate.
Properly structured, a funded living trust can make the postmortem process more confidential, more streamlined, and more flexible than probate.
With a living trust, your wishes may be less likely to be contested than with a probated will.
A trust is an option, but as with all things legal and financial it depends on your assets and your state laws.
But if you have a trust, you still need to have a will.
Not having an estate plan can be time-consuming, stressful, and costly for your heirs.
There is a strong likelihood that your property would not be distributed according to your wishes.
Bottom line: Take action to create your own estate plan. Only you can do it.
Doing so will give you peace of mind and protect your family from a big old mess down the road.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri), visit our estate planning website and be sure to subscribe to our complimentary estate planning e-newsletter while you are there.
Reference: Nerd Wallet (March 11, 2016) "10 Keys to Proper Estate Planning"