If you are like many people, when you think of estate planning, you probably think about writing a will that designates who will get your belongings after you die.
While writing a will is an important step to take, there are other items that can provide a more complete estate plan that not only distributes your assets but can provide security and protection for you and your loved ones. In fact, you may be surprised at how versatile and comprehensive the elements of an estate plan can be.
You may have seen TV shows or movies where family members gather after the death of a wealthy relative to see what he or she has left them in the will. This is a shallow representation of estate planning. While your will can certainly name the people to whom you wish to leave your belongings, you can also name the guardian of your minor children and include any items you may not have funded to your trust.
A revocable living trust is a common estate planning tool for avoiding the probate process. If you establish a trust, any assets you fund to it skip the probate process and go to the heirs according to the instructions you leave for the trustee. You can add or remove assets from a revocable trust, and you can also include details about how to manage the trust if you should become ill or incapacitated.
When creating an estate plan, it is important to remember that you may suffer an illness or injury that leaves you unable to manage your affairs or even to communicate your wishes. You can use your estate plan to prepare for this possibility. Some important estate planning tools include these:
- Advance medical directive: Names a surrogate to make medical decisions for you, including when to discontinue extraordinary measures to prolong your life.
- Living will: Provides instructions from you to guide your doctors and your health care surrogate in making difficult medical decisions, especially those related to the end of your life.
- Power of attorney: Grants authority to a specific individual to manage your financial and legal affairs if you become incapacitated.
There may be other tools that are more appropriate for your circumstances. Additionally, you will want your documents to comply with Missouri laws. Reaching out to a legal professional is a wise step for obtaining the information and guidance that will help you create an effective estate plan.