As Ben Franklin famously said, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” A good estate plan can help you experience certainty with both. Ensuring that you have all of the documents you need for a comprehensive estate plan helps protect you as well as your family.
In going through this process, you may have questions about what you need. There may be other people whispering in your ear about documents that you don’t understand and don’t know if you need. At Gordon Law, we want to make sure that you have what you need and do not spend money for things you do not need. We also want to make sure that you understand what general estate planning documents are called, what they mean, and why you may need them. Some of the following documents are intended to protect you while you are alive. Others are designed to ensure that your wishes are carried out upon your death.
- Power of Attorney – A document that authorizes a designee to take actions in your name. This can include access to accounts; payment of bills; and maintaining legal relationships. This can be limited for certain activities or it can be limited only if you are found to be unable to take care of your own affairs.
- HIPAA Release – A document that will allow your medical care providers to provide information concerning your health status to a designated person. If you are unable to speak for yourself or want to enable your care provider(s) to share information concerning your health status, you must sign a HIPAA release to allow that information to be shared.
- Durable Power of Attorney or Advance Directive – A document wherein you designate someone to make decisions for your health care in the event that you are not able to speak for yourself. Within an Advance Directive, you can state whether you want life-sustaining actions undertaken on your behalf, including ongoing actions to keep you alive even if there is no means for your recovery. If you do not express your wishes in advance, you burden your family members or health care provider(s) with making decisions that may not be in accord with your wishes.
- Trust – A document that creates a structure for holding your assets for you or your beneficiaries. Common objectives for trusts are to reduce the estate tax liability, to protect property in your estate, and to avoid probate.
- Will – A legal document that ensures that your assets are passed to your designated beneficiaries, in accordance with your wishes.
If you are a Nevada resident we recommend that you have a Pour Over Will and a Trust. This will allow your estate to avoid probate at your death. Probate is a legal proceeding that can be time-consuming and expensive. If you have followed the rules correctly with your Trust, you can avoid probate entirely. A Pour Over Will is a simple will that provides that any assets that were not in your Trust at the time of your death go into your Trust. Assets that have not been properly placed within your Trust while you are alive may still require probate, but it can be far more expeditious and likely less expensive.
The list of documents above is for all people, regardless of any other circumstances. There may be the need of additional estate planning documents if you own a business or have additional assets (such as real estate) that require different documentation.
Because of your unique needs, whether they are because of your interests in caring for family members such as young children, or protecting the legacy of your business, estate plans are not one size fits all. Your life is unlike anyone else’s. Your estate plan should be specifically tailored to you and your wishes.
Gordon Law is here to answer any questions you may have concerning estate planning. If you have more questions, please contact us.