Documents you may want to incorporate into your estate plan

Executing an estate plan is a good decision for those who wish to protect their assets and provide for their loved ones. There are no requirements for what exact documents you must include in your plan. In fact, the process of planning an estate may range from highly complex to simple. You can customize your plan to fit your own needs and ultimate goals regarding numerous issues, including your own medical care, financial decisions, special needs for a child or grandchild, property, inheritance or business issues.

There are many documents that can help you accomplish your estate planning goals. Before you plan your estate, it helps to learn more about such documents so you can choose the ones that serve the best purpose in your particular circumstances. Arizona, like all other states, has estate and probate regulations. It's always a good idea to seek clarification of any laws or rules that may affect your estate planning decisions.

The basics

You are likely more familiar with some estate documents than others. If you know someone who has already planned his or her estate, it can be quite helpful to ask questions regarding which documents your friend or family member used and why. The following list includes documents Arizona residents and others most often incorporate into their estate plans: 

  • Most people are familiar with a last will and testament. This, however, is different from a living will, which causes some people confusion.
  • A living will refers to your own medical care, namely any instructions you wish to give regarding what type of urgent care you wish to receive or decline in a life-threatening situation where you are unable to speak for yourself.
  • A last will and testament pertains to distribution of assets after you die.
  • Your last will also includes the name of the person you choose as executor, who oversees the gathering and distributing of assets according to the instructions you have written in your will.
  • There are numerous types of trusts, in particular revocable and non-revocable, that you may wish to include in your estate plan.
  • Non-revocable trusts are unchangeable; therefore, you should be cautious and thorough in your decision to use them.
  • If being unable to make financial decisions due to incapacitation is a concern of yours, you can execute a Power of Attorney, designating one or more people to make such decisions on your behalf if the need arises.

Once you plan your estate and sign all documents in the presence of the proper witnesses, it is not necessarily the final step in the process. It is always a good idea to conduct intermittent reviews of your estate plan, especially if life-changing events occur, such as new births, marriages or deaths which may affect the terms of your plan.

For instance, if you are leaving an inheritance to your grand-children and your son or daughter has a baby, you may want to update your plan to include that child's name. An estate planning and administration attorney can answer any questions you have regarding planning documents or how to make changes to an existing portfolio.

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