Every individual should consider putting together an estate plan to help ensure that their assets are distributed as they intend and that their family members know their wishes for the end of their life. A good estate plan will often include five key documents. If you have questions about your estate planning needs, reach out to Hargrave Law today to speak with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney.
The Five Key Elements of a Good Estate Plan
An effective estate plan may include all or some combination of the following estate planning documents:
- Will – A will normally serves as the cornerstone of any estate plan. Through a will, you can designate who you want to administer your estate following your death and who you want to receive your assets. A will can ensure that your property is distributed according to your wishes. If you have minor children, you can also nominate someone to be appointed guardian over your children if you and your child’s other parent have passed away.
- Trust – A trust refers to a legal structure that holds assets on behalf of beneficiaries. The assets of a trust are managed and distributed to beneficiaries by a trustee, according to the terms of the trust as set forth by the maker or grantor of the trust. Trusts come in many different forms, although they usually fall into one of two categories. Revocable trusts allow you to pass your assets onto your heirs without the need for probate, while irrevocable trusts also allow your family to avoid the expense of estate taxes.
- Power of attorney – In a power of attorney, you designate someone to manage your finances and/or personal affairs, normally when you become incapacitated and cannot manage them yourself.
- Health care directive – A health care directive operates much like a power of attorney, but specifically for medical decisions. Health care directives include two types of documents. A living will allows you to provide instructions regarding health care decisions you want taken on your behalf if you become incapacitated. A health care proxy designates someone to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself. Health care directives can give your family peace of mind about what medical treatment you may want if you become incapacitated or seriously ill.
- Beneficiary designations – If you have life insurance policies, retirement accounts, bank or brokerage accounts or pensions, you may be allowed to make beneficiary designations, which identify the person or persons that you want those assets to be paid to following your death.
How an Estate Planning Lawyer Could Help
Depending on the complexity of your assets, you may be well served by retaining the assistance of an estate planning lawyer to help you put together a thorough estate plan. An estate planning lawyer can help by:
- Identifying the assets in your estate
- Sitting down with you to discuss your financial plans and goals and who you may want to leave your assets to after you pass
- Advising you as to what estate planning documents would best serve your estate planning goals, including identifying a specific type of trust or determining if beneficiary designations are needed
- Drafting estate planning documents on your behalf according to your instructions
- Providing regular reminders to review your estate plan to ensure it continues to meet your needs and expectations, especially as your life circumstances change with marriage, divorce, birth of children and grandchildren, or career changes
Contact a Dallas-Fort Worth Estate Planning Attorney
If you need help with estate planning, contact the Dallas – Fort Worth estate planning lawyers at Hargrave Law, P.C., today for a no-obligation consultation to speak with an attorney about your legal rights and options and how our firm can assist you with the planning process.