When you visit with an estate planning attorney, the attorney is likely to mention the names of several different legal documents. If you want to understand what the attorney is talking about, then you will need to know what those documents are.
Most attorneys would be happy for you to ask if you do not know. Answering questions is what the attorney is there for. However, if you are not comfortable asking basic questions, then you should learn some basics beforehand.
Recently, the Ventura County Star published a list of basic estate planning documents and what they do in "Get to know estate planning documents." The list includes:
- Advance Directive - Tells doctors and other health care professionals what procedures not to perform if you are terminally ill and have no chance of recovery.
- Asset Inventory - A list of all of your assets to let your estate executor know what you have after you pass away.
- Beneficiary designations - Life insurance, retirement accounts, and other financial accounts you designate to go to a specific person after you pass away.
- Power of Attorney - Allows for someone else to handle your finances if you are incapacitated.
- Power of Attorney for health care - Allows for someone else to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated.
- Record of Locations - A list of where your heirs can find all the important financial and legal documents after you pass away.
- Trust agreement - A method of passing assets to others while having those assets maintained by a third person.
- Will - The most common estate planning document that says how assets should be distributed after you pass away via probate.
A qualified estate planning attorney can help you decide the best legal documents to use for your unique circumstances.
Reference: Ventura County Star (Sept. 17, 2016) "Get to know estate planning documents."