Estate planning is how you provide for your family, both before and after your death. It may involve management of investments, operating a business, supporting a spouse and minor children, or minimizing taxes.
What Documents Are Required to Create an Estate Plan?
A will is a legal document declaring a person's wishes regarding the disposal of their property when they die. It takes effect only at your death to dispose of property held in your name. A will does not control the disposition of property held jointly with rights of survivorship or property with a designated beneficiary (such as an insurance policy, IRA or retirement plan account) unless your estate is named as beneficiary. Without a will, your property passes under state law in a manner that is likely to be different than you had intended. Your will names an executor (the "personal representative") to administer your estate and a guardian to provide a home for and be legally in charge of any minor children.
A trust is simply an arrangement where one person (the "trustee") manages property for the benefit of another person (the "beneficiary"). Trusts may be divided into three types:
You may change or revoke a revocable trust at any time. Revocable trusts are often used to administer assets during your lifetime. Upon death, the revocable trust operates in the same way as a will to transfer assets to beneficiaries.
An irrevocable trust cannot be amended or revoked. It is used to make a completed gift when you do not want the donee to have outright ownership immediately.
A testamentary trust is created by your will and becomes effective only following your death.
Durable Power of Attorney
Durable Power of Attorney allows a family member or friend to manage your financial and/or personal affairs if you are unable to do so.
Heath Care Directive
A Health Care Directive allows a family member or friend to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. You may also communicate your feelings concerning life-sustaining treatment that may arise in the event of a terminal illness.
What Information is Necessary for Estate Planning?
An inventory of your assets and liabilities is the starting point for your estate plan. In most cases, fair market value can be estimated. In all cases, however, ownership or title must be determined exactly. Copies of deeds, stock certificates and insurance policies are necessary to avoid mistakes regarding ownership. If you own stock in a closely held corporation or an interest in a partnership, we need the names and ownership of the other shareholders or partners. You will be required to provide this information.
Your Sarasota & Manatee Estate Tax Planner