5 Essential Estate Planning Documents Your Client Need

Your clients have got meals to cook, soccer games to attend, and work deadlines to meet. And at the end of the day, they are beyond tired. Do they really need to squeeze in time to create estate planning documents, too?

As an estate planning attorney, you know that the answer is, of course, yes. If they don't take time to engage in estate planning, they'll end up hurting the very people they're working so hard to take care of -- their family. The sad reality, though, is that the majority of people in the United States lack estate plans.

This is the perfect time to promote estate planning in your practice like never before. After all, proper estate planning documents can help your clients to avoid family conflicts and save money. Here are five essential documents you can produce that will make everything a lot easier for them.

1. Will

This is a basic component of any estate plan. As you know, the will, or the last will and testament, contains instructions regarding how a client wants his or her assets to be distributed once he or she passes away.

As part of your will drafting process, your client will need to identify an executor -- the institution or individual who will oversee the asset distribution process.

In addition, if young children are part of the equation, the will you generate should feature provisions for the designation of a guardian for the children.

2. Revocable Living Trust

This is another invaluable part of an estate plan. The revocable living trust features detailed instructions that cover three essential life periods:

  • What occurs while your client is alive and in good health
  • What occurs if your client ends up being mentally incapacitated
  • What occurs after your client dies

A huge benefit of using this type of trust is that any assets held in a trust's name when a person dies will avoid probate. This is a big deal considering that probate can be a costly and time-consuming process. In addition, a revocable trust can be changed over time according to your client's needs.

Even if your client chooses to set up a trust, he or she still needs a will. However, in this situation, the will is called a pour-over will. It should feature minimal instructions because the client's trust will serve as the chief document that governs his or her estate plan.

The will, in this case, will essentially serve as your client's safety net, catching any assets he or she didn't transfer as part of the trust before his or her death. Thanks to the pour-over will, these assets will still make it into the trust even after he or she has passed away.

A quick note: Make sure that your client's will or trust doesn't contradict what he or she has spelled out as part of his or her insurance policy or retirement account.

For instance, maybe your client has listed his brother as his insurance policy or retirement account beneficiary. Make sure that he doesn't bequeath these same assets to his sister instead of his brother in his will. If this happens, he'll likely end up sparking a legal battle and bitterness between his siblings.

3. Living Will

This is another one of the core estate planning documents you should try to create for your client. This document instructs your client's doctor as to whether he or she should give the client life-sustaining treatment if the client is diagnosed with an end-stage or terminal condition. The living will also applies if your client ends up in a continual vegetative state.

The living will additionally provides a person's loved ones with guidelines to follow in the event he or she is suffering from a terminal illness.

4. Advanced Medical Directive

Another medical-related component of a solid estate plan is an advanced medical directive, or a medical power of attorney.

This document enables your client to identify a medical care agent who will make health-care-related decisions on his or her behalf if he or she can't make these decisions on his or her own.

Make sure that your client chooses an agent who would share his or her views on the medical care he or she would like to receive. After all, your client's life may literally be in this individual's hands one day.

Also, instruct your client to select a backup agent as well, just in case his or her first choice ends up being unavailable when needed.

Note that the advanced medical directive can also be useful for designating somebody to be a conservator or guardian if a court makes the determination that your client is mentally incapacitated.

5. Financial Power of Attorney

This is yet another critical document to include as part of any estate plan. With this document, your clients can assign to individuals of their choosing the ability to oversee their assets.

For instance, a financial power of attorney can be helpful for transferring assets into a revocable trust in the event that one of your clients experiences mental incapacitation before his or her trust has become fully funded.

This document also gives a chosen agent the ability to enter into real estate transactions or financial transactions on your client's behalf. Basically, the agent can make legal decisions for your client.

If your client doesn't have a financial power of attorney in place, a court might be the one to decide how his or her assets will be handled. Unfortunately, the court's decision may not necessarily align with what he or she would have wanted.

In some families, spouses may want to establish powers of attorney that are reciprocal. However, in other families, having other family members, friends or trusted advisors serve as powers of attorney may be a wiser move. Of course, these other parties need to be financially savvy.

How We Can Help with Your Firm's Estate Planning Documents

We offer a wide variety of will and trust documents through our special software, the Practical Planning System. Our automated software for preparing legal documents has helped to improve many estate planning law offices' efficiency.

Our goal is to help you to run your practice and meet your clients' needs more effectively. With our system, you can spend less time preparing documents and more time finding new clients and growing your law firm. In fact, our technology is proven to slash your document prep time in half.

Get in touch with us to find out more about how we can help your clients to protect their assets and their loved ones' best interests with the best comprehensive estate planning documents. Your bottom line and reputation will thank you both now and in the years to come.

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