Estate Planning Answers to Common Questions
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Question: What estate planning documents do I need?
Answer: Depending on the size of your assets and your specific objectives, a person may require a complex estate planning strategy. However, everyone should have at least the basic estate planning documents, which include the following: Will, Directive to Physicians (living will), Medical Power of Attorney and Statutory Durable Power of Attorney. Your Will should identify your spouse and children, if any, and your assets. In your Will, you should clearly state what you want to happen to your property, both personal and real, after your death. Also, the Will should appoint an independent executor without bond to handle your affairs, revoke any prior wills and provide for a guardian of any minor children.
Question: Upon my death, does all my property pass through my Will?
Answer: Some of your property could pass outside of your Will and would not be subject to probate. Non-probate assets may include certain bank, stock accounts and U.S. Savings Bonds, depending on how each account is set up. Payable on Death Account (POD) and Multiple-Party Account with Right of Survivorship accounts override the Will and those assets pass outside the Will. Also, life insurance and retirement benefits will pass outside the Will to the beneficiary named in the insurance policy or the retirement agreement. Therefore, it is important to update beneficiary designations on applicable bank accounts, life insurance policies and retirement accounts.
Please note: The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law. Readers with legal problems, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult attorneys for advice on their particular circumstances.