In addition to your Living Trust, the typical estate planning documents your estate planning attorney will prepare for you include the following:
Will (“Pour-over” type)
If you have created a revocable living trust for yourself, it is good practice also to create what is called a “pour over” will.
What this will does is “catch-up” at your death any property in your estate which had not been transferred into your trust or transferred by means of another “will substitute” such as a beneficiary designated under an insurance policy, IRA, retirement account, or pay-on-death bank or other financial account. Instead, a pour over will provides that any such property is to pass to the successor trustee of your trust to be made a part of your trust estate and be distributed in accordance with the terms of your Declaration of Trust.
General Power of Attorney
By a general power of attorney you appoint (give a power of attorney to) an “agent” (typically your spouse or your child) to make financial and business decisions on your behalf, should you become unable. It should be “durable,” so that it remains effective should you become mentally incompetent (which, when you think about it, is the very time such a power is most needed).
Nomination of Conservator of your Estate
By this document you nominate whom you would wish to handle your financial affairs on your behalf, should you become incapacitated and require a court-appointed conservator.
General Transfer of Property
By this general transfer document you indicate your intent to transfer ownership of the assets listed into your trust, and in fact, do so transfer your non-titled assets (such as clothing and furniture). Your titled assets (such as your home and bank accounts) must have their legal title (ownership) changed to evidence they have been transferred to your trust.
Nomination of Guardian, if You Have a Minor Child(ren)
A guardian is a person appointed by the court to handle the financial affairs (called a “guardian of the estate”) and/or to oversee the personal affairs (called a “guardian of the person”) of a minor child. Such a guardian becomes necessary if there is no living or competent parent.
Now while the court – not the parent or parents – does the actual appointing of such a guardian, using as its standard for selection “whoever is in the best interests of the child,” the court will certainly give great weight in its deliberative process to the person you, the parent(s), desire to serve in such role. This document enables you to make your desire known in written form.
Advance Health Care Directive
Your Advance Health Care Directive serves four primary functions:
(1) By it you appoint (give a health care power of attorney to) a health care “agent” (typically your spouse or your child) to make health care decisions on your behalf, should you become unable (such as being in a coma following a vehicle accident). It should be a “durable” power, so that it will remain operative should you become mentally incompetent.
(2) By it you can also direct or not direct your health care providers to “pull the plug,” should you be considered to have an irreversible medical condition with no expectation for recovery.
(3) By it you can indicate whether or not you wish, following your death, to donate any organs or other body parts, and for what purpose(s).
(4) By it you can state whether, on death, you want bodily burial or cremation and any related details.