Basic Estate Planning Documents

If you do not have any estate planning documents, you should consider meeting with an attorney to review your needs. The basic estate planning documents consist of a will, power of attorney and living will. For those persons who have estate planning documents in place, we recommend that these documents be reviewed periodically and in the event of a change of circumstances. These changes of circumstances would include marriage or divorce, birth of children, change in status of beneficiaries or executor, change in financial status and changes in the law including tax law changes.

Some clients have more challenging planning needs than others. Our philosophy is to start with the simplest solution to meet your estate planning needs and move into more complex planning if necessary as your situation may merit. Those clients who have been fortunate to obtain substantial assets may desire to engage in more complex estate planning to shelter their estate from federal estate tax liability. Other clients may have special concerns in their estate plan due to particular family situations, charitable desires or other unique situations.

Clients with well drafted estate plan will have peace of mind that their affairs are in order so that their estate can be passed on to their loved ones in the manner the client desires in a timely, cost effective and orderly fashion.

We strongly advise against the use of forms documents as a substitute for meeting with an attorney. The form itself is only a starting place for estate planning documents and is not a substitute for an analysis by an attorney of your estate planning needs and preparation of the proper estate planning documents. There are a wide variety of forms available. The form may be defective, may not suit your needs or may be improperly used or modified. A poorly drafted will may be worse than having no will at all and can create unintended results and additional expenses and taxes. We believe a person trying to create their own estate planning documents from forms would be like a lawyer trying to design a bridge from some materials obtained off the internet rather then hiring a civil engineer. There is a good chance that bridge is going to collapse.


A summary of the some of the basic estate planning documents are listed below:


The will is a document in which you provide for the disposition of you assets, names your beneficiaries and appoint your executor to handle your estate upon your death. You may also appoint a trustee and guardian for minor children or incapacitated persons.


Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a document in which you appoint one or more other persons to act on your behalf during your lifetime. These powers can include both financial and health care powers. This document is extremely important in the event you become incapacitated due to an accident, heath problem or other cause. Without a Power of Attorney no one has the authority to take care of your affairs and Court proceedings will be necessary to appoint of a Court appointed guardian.


Living Will
A living will is a document which states what medical actions are to be taken or not taken in the event you are in a terminal condition. This document allows your wishes to be followed by the doctors and your loved ones and provides peace of mind and direction for your family.


What information do you need in order to complete your estate planning documents?

Preparing a will and power of attorney is typically easier then most people expect. In fact you do not have to do any preparation in advance of an appointment and we can walk you through the issues you need to consider at the appointment. For those of you who like to be more prepared, please contact us in advance to discuss the information you may need.