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Understanding the Essential Documents in Your Estate Plan

Understanding the Essential Documents in Your Estate Plan

A comprehensive estate plan is comprised of several important legal documents that work together to protect your interests and end-of-life choices. Each document serves a specific purpose, and is intended to reflect your current personal, medical, and financial circumstances. For this reason, it’s important to update your estate plan every few years or after a significant life event. After all, a person’s lifestyle and standard of living naturally changes over the years, especially after retirement.

You need to draft or update your estate plan so that it accurately dictates:

  • Your chosen agents and beneficiaries
  • Your healthcare choices in the event of a medical emergency
  • How you want your assets and property distributed upon your death
  • Who has the authority to manage your finances if you’re incapacitated
  • Which designated guardian will care for your minor children or special needs relatives
  • Who is allowed to make medical care decisions on your behalf

The documents in your estate plan serve as legal directives for your beneficiaries, agents, and the court assigned to manage your estate. They also protect your family from various legal complications that typically shadow a loved one’s passing. For example, updated trust documents can safeguard your assets from being greatly impacted by state, federal, and estate taxes. Plus, your estate plan can expedite the probate process and promptly distribute your remaining assets and properties to your chosen beneficiaries.

Your Estate Plan

At Fitzpatrick Mariano Santos Sousa P.C., we understand the importance of estate planning. Our goal is to ensure that our clients walk out of our office feeling confident in their choices and prepared for the future.

Last Will and Testament

Your will may be the most important document in your estate plan, but it can’t work alone to protect your interests. However, it’s still an essential document because it guarantees that your personal wishes are upheld upon your death.

A will serves the following functions:

  1. It designates your beneficiaries
  2. It dictates how you want your assets to be distributed
  3. It establishes an executor to manage your legal affairs
  4. It names a guardian for your minor children

Trust Documents

Trusts can effectively protect your assets, interests, and beneficiaries from the probate process. There are different types of trusts that you can choose depending on your specific needs and financial circumstances. In fact, most people have multiple trust options included in their estate plans. The most common trusts are revocable and irrevocable living trusts, which allow you to relinquish ownership of your assets in order to protect them from probate court, taxes, and lawsuits.

Trusts provide the following benefits:

  • Your family can expedite the probate process
  • The impact of state, federal, and estate taxes is minimized
  • Assets can be transferred to your beneficiaries almost immediately after your passing
  • Saves your family expensive legal fees
  • You remain the controlling trustee
  • Your assets can be distributed at once or over a period of time
  • You can continue building wealth by investing your assets

Advanced Healthcare Directive

An advanced healthcare directive specifies your personal wishes in the event of a medical emergency or your sudden incapacitation. Your family members and medical care providers are legally responsible for respecting the terms listed in this legal document, including your treatment preferences and your end-of-life decisions.

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare

A durable power of attorney for healthcare authorizes an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Of course, this agent needs to be abide by the directions stated in your advanced healthcare directive.

A durable power of attorney for healthcare grants an agent the authority to:

  • Approve medication and treatment options
  • Discuss your medical condition with your doctor
  • Access and review your medical records
  • Admit or discharge you from your nursing home or hospital

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

A durable power of attorney for finances authorizes an agent to handle your financial affairs during a medical emergency. For example, if you’re incapacitated or hospitalized, your agent can pay for your medical expenses and manage your accounts until you’re well again.

A durable power of attorney for finances grants an agent the authority to:

  • Access and manage your financial accounts
  • Pay your monthly bills and taxes
  • Handle your medical expenses

Develop or Update Your Estate Plan Today

At Fitzpatrick Mariano Santos Sousa P.C., our Waterbury estate planning lawyers can help you design a comprehensive estate plan that meets your personal and legal objectives. Our legal team has been helping the residents of Connecticut with their estate planning needs for over 35 years. We stay updated on fluctuating state and federal laws to ensure that we are always prepared to effectively handle any legal issue our clients may face. In the future, you can also rely on our attorneys to thoroughly review and update your estate plan to account for any necessary changes you wish to make.  

Contact Fitzpatrick Mariano Santos Sousa P.C. at (203) 583-8299 to schedule a free consultation.

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