Without question, estate planning involves some of the most important decisions you will ever make. The plans you make and the documents you sign will vary depending on your individual situation. However, it is important to make sure that you at least cover the following common elements of basic estate planning:
The document that forms the foundation of many estate plans is called a Will, which is short for Last Will and Testament. As the settlor of your Will, you can name someone to serve as personal representative of your estate. You also may use your Will to state who will get your property after you are gone. In addition, Wills may name guardians for minor or incapacitated loved ones and set up testamentary trusts.
Durable Power of Attorney
Another important document that people typically include in their estate plans, the durable power of attorney takes effect while the principal is still alive. You would be the principal and would name someone to act as your agent.
In Alabama, a power of attorney is durable unless it specifically states that the power ends if the principal becomes incapacitated. Typically, you will choose whether the power of attorney becomes effective immediately or only if you become incapacitated.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
Though similar to a durable power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney is a form of advanced directive. This important document names an agent to communicate with your medical providers if you no longer can. It’s best to make sure your agent understands your beliefs about medical care, especially for end-of-life treatment.
In fact, many people also include a living will in their basic estate planning. This document specifically states how you want end-of-life care to be handled.
Certain property can be titled in such a way that it passes directly to your heirs without going through probate. How your property is titled can make a big difference in the wording of your other estate planning documents.
Most, if not all, of your financial accounts, investment accounts, and insurance policies allow you to name beneficiaries. Your beneficiary designations also have a huge impact on the rest of your estate plan because they trump your Will.
One sometimes-overlooked estate planning tool is the trust. There are many trusts to choose from, but one of the most common is the revocable living trust. By transferring your assets to the trust, you can ensure that your property passes directly to beneficiaries. Usually, probate is not needed for assets owned by the trust.
Make Sure Your Plan Contains the Elements of Basic Estate Planning
When you need an attorney, call Bruce Adams. He has the skills and experience to help with your business and estate planning concerns. Please contact us at 256-237-3339 to set up an appointment or use the convenient Contact form on our website. Our office is located in Anniston, Alabama, but we assist clients in surrounding communities like Oxford, Jacksonville, Heflin, Gadsden, and Pell City.