Unless you have limited assets and can get by with a simple will, you need an estate plan that includes several documents to ensure that your assets are distributed the way you desire, and your other wishes are fulfilled, all with minimal court intervention.
- Revocable Trust: This is a type of trust which is flexible and can be changed by you until your death and any income is distributed to you. The trust assets do not transfer to your beneficiaries until after you pass. The main benefits are that the provisions remain private and your heirs can avoid probate. You can also appoint someone to control the principal during your life if you become incapacitated. The main disadvantages are the time and effort involved because you must prepare an assignment of assets to the trust, as well as re-title these assets in the trust’s name to avoid probate. There may also be ongoing costs to manage the trust.
- Pour-Over Will: This type of will ensures that your assets will be transferred, or "poured over" into your revocable trust. You can be confident that in case all your assets were not properly titled and placed into the trust, they will still be considered part of the trust because of the directions you provide in this will.
- Living Will/Advance Health Care Directive: This important document will direct what healthcare you wish or do not wish to have if you are incapacitated or unable to communicate your wishes. This document usually comes into play during a life-saving emergency or critical illness.
- Financial Power of Attorney: In the event of your illness or incapacity, or inability to be available to sign important documents, a power of attorney will give a trusted person either broad or limited authority to act on your behalf and manage your finances and assets for you.