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5 Key Estate Planning Documents

For more on estate planning, read our free “Guide to Legacy & Estate Planning.”

Read the Guide.

Estate planning is a complex process, and we always recommend that people consult a professional estate planning attorney for help with their specific situation. However, to get you started on thinking about what you might need to include in your estate plan, here are 5 documents you should familiarize yourself with:

Last Will & Testament

A legal document that is the foundation for a successful estate plan. After you embark on your estate planning journey, your attorney will recommend either a will-based estate plan or a trust-based estate plan. With a will-based estate plan, your Last Will and Testament dictates the following:

  • Who will serve as the executor or Personal Representative of your estate. This person will be the one to settle your affairs after your death and ensure that the tenants of your will are being accurately followed and attended to.
  • What power your executor or Personal Representative will have and what they will be responsible for.
  • Who your beneficiaries will be and what each beneficiary will inherit. Your Last Will and Testament also defines how and when your assets or property will be transferred to your desired beneficiaries.

Living Trust

A living trust – also known as a revocable living trust – is a legal document created during your lifetime that allows for the transfer of assets in a trust to your beneficiaries without needing to go through probate court proceedings.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the power to act on your behalf. Being “durable” means that the power of attorney can be revoked in a few different situations: if you specifically cancel it, if you die, if it expires, or if you become mentally incompetent.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

A legal document in which you assign someone to act on your behalf or be your representative in a situation where you are unable to make decisions related to your healthcare.

Living Will

Also known as an advanced healthcare directive, a living will is a document providing instructions for end-of-life care.

Our Take

These are just a few documents you should be familiar with as you start thinking about estate planning. For what type of estate planning documents you will need in your specific situation, we recommend contacting an estate planning attorney.

Contact a Financial Advisor

Disclaimer: This guide and all data are for informational purposes. You should not rely on this information as the primary basis of your investment, financial, or tax planning decisions. You should consult your legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation.

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