Making Dollars Making Sense: Essential Estate Planning Documents

BY STEVEN GALLO, CFP®, Partner, Financial Advisor

Estate planning is the process that manages and preserves your assets while you are alive and conserves and controls how they are distributed to your heirs after you pass. Irrespective of your age or net worth, an estate plan is necessary to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your assets. These plans require legal documents, and it is advisable to consult with an attorney to assist in the preparation of the documents, preferably one that specializes in estate planning. Below are the essential documents you should be acquainted with as you assemble your plan.

Will

A will provides instructions for distributing your assets to your heirs upon your death. An attorney can customize the provisions of the will to fit your family’s particular circumstances. You appoint a personal representative to pay final expenses, taxes, and distribute your assets. It is extremely important for parents with minor children to have a will as it is the only way to designate a guardian should both parents pass away. It is important to keep in mind that a will cannot instruct the distribution of assets in accounts with designated beneficiaries like life insurance, retirement accounts, and accounts with transfer on death instructions.

Durable Power of Attorney

In the event you become incapacitated, a durable power of attorney names an agent to oversee your financial affairs until you are mentally able to do so or until your death. An agent’s decision-making powers may cover all facets of your finances, from signing checks and filing tax returns to managing investment accounts.

Medical Directive

Medical directives communicate your intentions regarding the use of life-sustaining measures in the event of a terminal illness. If you don’t have a directive in place, healthcare providers are obligated to prolong your life using artificial means—even if you would not want to have the procedures.  Advance directives may include:

  • Living Will A document that states which kinds of health care treatments you wish to refuse or accept.
  • Healthcare Proxy Another term for a health care power of attorney, this document states who has the power to make medical decisions for you should you become incapable of making them for yourself.
  • Do-Not-Resuscitate Order (DNR) A document that tells your family and health care providers that you do not wish to receive resuscitative treatments if you are terminal.

Trust

If your current family or financial situations warrants the need for more sophistication, then your attorney may advise the use of a trust. If a trust is used, the trust can simply be part of the will, such as a testamentary trust, or it can be a separate freestanding document executed simultaneously with the will, such as a revocable trust or a living trust.

Having a well-defined estate plan is a key pillar to a comprehensive financial plan. It will protect yourself, your loved ones, and your assets. Once assembled, it is advisable to review periodically to incorporate any changes in tax law or in your personal family dynamics.  To explore all of the estate planning documents you will need in your specific situation, we recommend contacting an estate-planning attorney.

Marzano Capital Group and LPL Financial do not provide legal advice or services. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Independent Advisor Alliance, a registered investment advisor. Independent Advisor Alliance and Marzano Capital Group are separate entities from LPL Financial.

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