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What are the core documents in estate planning?

Delaware residents who are considering making plans to provide for their loved ones after they pass away might not know what documents they will need. During estate planning, their needs are assessed, and a combination of the following seven documents will be considered. These are the documents that most people need in order to create an estate plan effectively dispose of their assets after death and provide for their care if incapacitated.

The cornerstone of most estate plans is the last will and testament. It provides instructions to the executor regarding how assets are to be distributed. Parents of minor children can also appoint someone to care for their children (a guardian) if they pass away while the children are still young. A letter of intent can accompany a will outlining specific bequests and other instructions.

Trusts hold assets for beneficiaries. A grantor (the trust's creator) provides rules regarding distributions to beneficiaries. The trustee administers the trust and ensures its provisions are followed. Assets in a trust do not go through probate. Trusts also protect their assets from creditors, estate taxes and other people.

The remaining documents protect a Delaware resident and provide for him and her in the event of incapacitation due to illness or injury. A living will outlines what end-of-life care the person does -- or does not -- want, and a healthcare power of attorney appoints a trusted individual to carry out those wishes or otherwise make decisions regarding medical care on behalf of the incapacitated person. A HIPAA release for the agent will help clear the way for him or her to be provided relevant information needed to make those decisions. A durable power of attorney appoints someone to deal with a person's financial affairs, which can be as specific or broad as desired. 

The beauty of estate planning is that the contents of these documents can be tailored to a specific individual's needs. There are even numerous types of trusts available depending on the circumstances. Knowing how to properly construct these documents to achieve an individual's goals often requires the advice and assistance of an attorney. Any challenges to these documents can be diminished or eliminated by being sure they comply with current applicable laws.

Source: aol.com, "7 documents you need to fill out before you die", Clark Randall, Dec. 30, 2016

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