You likely know that creating a comprehensive estate plan is something that needs to be done. You may even be ready to get started; however, you may not know where to start. What is the most important estate planning document? What other documents do you need? How should decisions in your estate plan be made? Who should you appoint to the various roles within your plan? All of these questions may be rolling around in your head, causing you to hesitate instead of moving forward with your plan creation. Only an experienced Missouri estate planning attorney can provide you with individualized advice; however, a basic understanding of some of the most common, and important, estate planning documents may help ease your anxiety and allow you to move forward with your plan creation.
With few exceptions, a Last Will and Testament provides the foundation for any comprehensive estate plan. Even if you ultimately utilize a number of trusts to control assets after your death, a Will remains essential. On the other hand, if you add nothing more to your estate plan, a Will can serve as the framework for the distribution of all your estate assets. Your Will allows you to make specific bequests to beneficiaries as well as general gifts to beneficiaries. Your Will can even distribute as yet unidentified assets. More importantly, your Will allows you to nominate a guardian for your minor children if you have then or you anticipate having them in the future. Without a Will, the State of Illinois laws of intestate succession will be used to handle the distribution of your estate assets when you die. Chances are good that those laws will not distribute your assets in the same way you would. Failing to execute a Will prior to death, however, subjects your estate to the intestate succession laws and removes your wishes from the picture.
Though a Last Will and Testament is generally considered the most important estate planning document, there are several others that can play an important role in your plan as well, including:
Power of attorney
Letter of Instruction
Each of these documents plays a specific role in your estate plan should you choose to include any, or all, of them. Only your Missouri estate planning attorney can help you decide which additional documents you may need and which ones will complement your Last Will and Testament.