Everybody is different. There is not a one size fits all estate plan. There are many different ways to approach the issue of estate planning that are designed to consider your individual situation. No matter what tools are used, it is important that you are able to give effect to your decisions. Most importantly, that your estate is distributed how you want it to be distributed and that your wishes are respected should you not be able to make decisions.
There are some basic documents that everybody should have to ensure that their intentions are realized. Everybody, regardless of the size of their estate, should have the following documents: 1) a will; 2) a living will; and 3) healthcare power of attorney. Many individuals would also benefit from creating a trust.
What is a Will?
A will is a document that sets forth how you want your estate distributed. Without one, the State of Kansas will decide how to distribute your estate. The State of Kansas does not account for your wishes or desires. A will allows you to determine how your estate will be distributed, and to whom. In a will, you may choose a guardian for your children, should such a need arise, and can even provide direction about your social media accounts. If you create a trust, you still need a will. The will is used to catch those assets that have not been funded to the trust, possibly because they were acquired after you made the trust. The will then pours those assets into the trust for distribution according to the terms you set forth in the trust.
What is a Living Will?
A living will is a written statement by you regarding what life sustaining medical treatment you are to receive if you are unable to tell the medical staff yourself. This document ensures that your wishes are what the medical staff will adhere to. Your family members have your best interest at heart, but it should be your decisions that are implemented. Just as important, it relieves family members from having to make very tough decisions about what you would want. Everybody over the age of 18 should have a living will, and a copy should be given to your physician.
What is a Health Care Power of Attorney and How Does it Help?
A Health Care Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you authorize a person that you trust to make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to speak for yourself. These decisions include the power to consent to or refuse any type of medical care, treatment, service, or procedure. You may provide instructions in your Health Care Power of Attorney that require your agent to make decisions in accordance with your direction.
What is a Trust?
The types of trusts are many, and their purposes are varied. There are living trusts, testamentary trusts, revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, charitable trusts, special needs trusts, and even spend-thrift trusts. When structured properly, a trust can avoid probate, protect your privacy, avoid taxation and immediately pass property to your heirs.