Although we all know that death is inevitable many of us put off preparing for it, mainly because we don't want to think about it. Your family will appreciate it, if you take the time to put the necessary documents in place well in advance. No one but you knows your exact wishes unless you memorialize your wishes in writing through a set of estate planning documents. Your estate plan is unique to your wishes and your family's needs. But, by thinking ahead, you can make your loved ones' lives easier while going through the grief process upon your death. Its also important to consider, that you may become incapacitated for a time before your death, and someone else may need to make decisions for you. A document preparer may not advise you as to what you will need to do to regarding your estate planning. This is a very personal area, and boils down to creating an orderly transfer of assets upon death, or (if using a living trust) incapacitation. Document preparers prepare documents. Each individual needs to make decisions about that orderly transfer of assets upon death, and, hopefully, these decisions are made well before death.
Most people are aware of the most basic document - a Last Will & Testament. However, there are other documents which are just as important. And, many people believe that having a will avoids probate, it doesn't. There are ways to avoid probate, but whether or not a will is in place, does not automatically mean there will be no probate. Probate is the process where the court oversees the distribution of assets when someone dies. People sometimes wish to avoid probate for two main reasons:
Certain liquid assets, like bank accounts, life insurance, and stocks can be kept out of the probate process with a little advance planning. Bank accounts and stocks can usually be transferred to your beneficiary upon your death without going through probate, simply by adding on a "Transfer on Death" document. Talk to your banker or stockbroker, to see exactly what they require. As for life insurance policies, make sure that the listed beneficiary is a person or specific entity, not left "to the estate of ____________". If prepared this way your life insurance will not need to be probated either. But, if its left to your estate, it will need to go through probate, and then distributed according to your will.
Besides a Last will & Testament you'll need additional documents. Remember, you're planning ahead to make it easier for your loved ones at the time of your death or incapacity. You don't want to leave them guessing as to the what you would want, or the best thing to do. You can make your wishes known ahead of time. Additional documents you will need are:
Many of our FALDP members prepare these documents. If you would like assistance, submit the form on this page or call 800-515-0496. We're here to help!