Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

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Monday, April 21, 2014

8 Essential Estate Planning Documents

Will

Before you are gone, it is important to have your estate planning documents in order to make life easier for those you leave behind.  Below is a list of eight documents you need right now:

  1. Last Will and Testament. A will allows you to decide what will happen with your possessions after you are gone.  Without a will, your assets will go through probate, which can be expensive and time consuming.  Be sure to update your will as changes in your life occur such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, or purchases of real estate.
  2. Revocable Living Trust. A revocable trust is another tool to pass assets to heirs while avoiding probate.  Your trust can be used to distribute your property now, or after death.  It may also provide tax savings if you have substantial wealth. 
  3. Designate Beneficiaries. Beneficiary designations are imperative and take precedence over instructions in a will.  Update beneficiaries as your life changes.
  4. Power of Attorney. Elect someone to act on your behalf, financially and legally, in case you cannot make decisions. 
  5. Durable Health Care Power of Attorney. A health care power of attorney enables someone to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated.  Drafting a living will also lets you say what type of care you prefer, if you are unable to communicate. 
  6. Digital Assets.  Decide what to do with your digital information, such as your computer hard drive, online accounts, and photo collections when you are gone. 
  7. Letter of Intent. For important personal or financial information that does not belong in your will, write a letter to convey your wishes for what you hope to be done.  This might include instructions about how you want your funeral performed.
  8. List of Documents. Make certain your family knows where to find everything you have prepared.  Create a list of documents where each is stored. 

See Marilyn Lewis, Estate-Planning Documents You Need Right Now, Money Talks News, Apr. 18, 2014. 

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

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