As a Tampa will and trust lawyer, clients often ask me to explain what a basic estate plan involves. There’s no simple answer to that question, though. An estate plan all depends on the situation and the needs of each individual. For one person, that could involve a Revocable Living Trust. For another, it might only be a few basic documents like a Power of Attorney and a Living Will. In this blog, we will cover a few basic documents that almost all adults will need when tackling their estate planning.
The first document is a Last Will and Testament. This necessary document directs how your estate will be distributed after your passing. A basic Last Will and Testament will not save you from estate taxes or probate proceedings, but it can allow you the comfort of knowing that the people you want to benefit from your estate will receive their intended inheritance. Even individuals with modest assets that they’d like to leave to loved ones should create a Last Will and Testament.
I also recommend that everyone have a Power of Attorney. This gives someone the power to act on your behalf in financial, business, and real estate matters if you are not able to handle your own affairs. This document only stays in effect during your lifetime and, depending on the type, may only activate under certain circumstances.
Third, a Living Will lets you share your medical wishes with your family, healthcare providers, and caretakers in the event of your incapacitation. You can also name a representative in your Living Will who can make medical decisions in that event.
Putting beneficiary designations on financial accounts and insurance policies can help protect your estate from probate, but I suggest always doing so with the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer. An example: if you name an underage minor as beneficiary of an account, they will not be able to inherit it directly. Instead, you must name a guardian, and this makes the process that much more complicated.
Once you have whatever legal tools are necessary for your estate plan, the final thing that everyone needs is a safe place to store those documents where their loved ones can easily access them should something happen. Having lost documents can be the same as having no documents at all.
If you have any more estate planning questions or would like to get started on a plan of your own, please contact our Tampa will and trust lawyers at (813) 438-8503 to set up a consultation.