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The Essential Estate Planning Documents

Every good estate plan is built upon the foundation of the essential estate planning documents that cover all three phases of your life: while you're alive and well, if you become disabled, and after you die. Learn about these essential documents, including advance medical directives and living wills, powers of attorney, revocable living trusts, and last will and testaments.

Learn About Wills, Trusts, and More
Estate planning is about getting the right legal documents in place to plan for the possibility of mental incapacity and inevitable death. Learn all about the essential estate planning documents, including Last Will and Testaments, Revocable Living Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, and more.

An Overview of the Essential Estate Planning Documents
Estate planning is about legally organizing your affairs to deal with the possibility of mental incapacity and certain death. Depending on your current family and financial situations, your estate plan will include four or five essential legal documents.

Essential Documents for Mental Disability Planning
There are basically three types of legal documents necessary to plan for mental disability: Advance Medical Directives, including Living Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Revocable Living Trusts.

What is a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that's the first building block to your estate plan. After determining your need for an estate plan, your attorney will recommend either a will-based plan or a trust-based plan. Your Last Will and Testament will take on significantly different roles depending upon the type of plan that has been recommended.

What Happens Without a Last Will and Testament?
What happens if you don't have a will when you die? Find out here.

What Are the Different Types of Last Will and Testaments?
Last will and testaments come in several different forms, and while some forms will be legally valid in some states, they will be disregarded in others. Read on to learn about the different types of wills that are available in the U.S.

Should You Write Your Own Will?
Should you write your own will? Definitely not. Here's why.

Is Your Last Will and Testament Valid?
When it comes to creating a Last Will and Testament, it's very important for you to observe all of the formalities required by the laws of your state in order to make the Last Will legally valid and binding on your heirs.

What is Probate of a Will?
Probate is the state court process used to authenticate a Last Will and Testament. Learn how probate of a Last Will works here.

What is a Will Contest and When Can a Will Contest Be Filed?
A will contest is a type of lawsuit that is brought to challenge the validity of a Last Will and Testament and can be filed at one of two points during the probate process.

What Are the Grounds for Contesting a Will?
Learn about the four legal grounds for challenging a will and why it's so difficult to prove any one of them.

Who Can File a Will Contest?
A will contest can only be filed by someone who has legal standing. Find out what that means here.

5 Tips for Avoiding a Will Contest
One of the underlying goals of creating an estate plan should be to head off fights among your beneficiaries and instead promote acceptance that your true wishes have been spelled out and will ultimately be fulfilled. In order to achieve this goal, you should consider the five tips contained in this article.

Will Your Last Will and Testament Work in All States?
Will your Last Will and Testament work if you move to a new state? Like many aspects of estate planning, the answer to this question is, "it depends." Find out why your Last Will and Testament may not work the way you expect it to in your new state.

Will Your U.S. Last Will and Testament Work in A Foreign Country?
Will your U.S. Last Will and Testament be valid under the laws of a foreign country? Find out here.

Who Gets a Copy of a Will After the Testator Dies?
When someone dies, there are not any laws in the U.S. that require the "reading of the will" in front of the deceased person's heirs. Nonetheless, certain heirs are entitled to receive a copy of the will so that they can read it on their own. Find out who here.

What Happens at the Reading of a Will?
After someone dies, when is their will read out loud to the heirs? Find this out and much more.

How Do You Make Changes to Your Last Will and Testament?
As long as you're mentally compentent, you can change, modify, update, or completely revoke your Last Will and Testament at any time. But how do you make changes to your Last Will that will be legally valid? Find out.

What is a Codicil?
A Codicil is a legal document that changes specific provisions of a Last Will and Testament but leaves the other provisions unchanged. As long as you are mentally competent, you can change, modify, update, or completely revoke your Last Will and Testament at any time. But the question becomes, when should you make a Codicil and when should you write an entire new Last Will?

What is a Revocable Living Trust?
A Revocable Living Trust is a legal document that is created by an individual, called a Trustmaker, to hold and own the Trustmaker's assets, which are in turn invested and spent for the benefit of the Trustmaker by an individual or institution called the Trustee.

Do You Really Need a Revocable Living Trust?
Do you really need a Revocable Living Trust as part of your estate plan? Ask yourself the five questions listed in this article to determine the answer.

Wills vs. Revocable Living Trusts - What Do You Need?
How do you determine if you need a Revocable Living Trust instead of just a Last Will and Testament? Find out here.

Should You Write Your Own Revocable Living Trust?
Should you attempt to write your own Revocable Living Trust? Absolutely not! Learn the reasons why in this article.

What's the Difference Between a Living Will and a Living Trust?
Many people confuse Living Wills with Living Trusts, and yet these legal documents serve two completely different purposes. Learn what a Living Will is, what a Living Trust is, and how to never confuse these two documents ever again.

How Do You Make Changes to Your Revocable Living Trust?
One of the benefits of a Revocable Living Trust is that it gives you the flexibility to make changes to the terms of it at any time. But how can you make changes to your trust that will be legally valid? Find out.

Who Gets a Copy of a Trust After the Trustmaker Dies?
When someone dies, you've probably seen in the movies or on TV or read in a book about "the reading of the Will." Unfortunately, this is purely a theatrical device designed to create drama in a fictional story - today there's no legal requirement that a Will or a Revocable Living Trust be read to anyone. Instead, the trust attorney has to determine who should be sent a copy of the trust agreement.

IRA Trust - A Special Type of Revocable Trust for Your IRA
If you have significant assets held within an IRA, then you should consider setting up a special type of revocable living trust that is designed to be the beneficiary of your IRA and will create a lasting legacy for your family.

What Are the Benefits of an IRA Trust?
If you have significant assets held in an IRA, then you should consider setting up a special type of revocable living trust that is designed to be the beneficiary of your IRA after you die. Here's why.

What is a Trust Amendment and a Trust Restatement?
A Trust Amendment is a legal document that changes specific provisions of a Revocable Living Trust but leaves the other provisions unchanged, while an Amendment and Restatement of Trust completely replaces and supercedes all of the provisions of the original Revocable Living Trust.

What is an Affidavit or Memoradum of Trust?
When asked to fund assets into a Revocable Living Trust, often times financial institutions will request a copy of the trust agreement for their files. Many Trustmakers, however, do not like the fact that these institutions will have an entire copy of their trust agreement on record. This is where an Memorandum of Trust comes in handy.

Your Assignment of Tangible Personal Property/Quitclaim Bill of Sale
In order to save you from making a list of all of the tangible personal property that you own, a blanket Assignment of Tangible Personal Property or Quitclaim Bill of Sale can be prepared in order to fund these assets into your Revocable Living Trust.

What is an Advance Medical Directive?
Planning for medical emergencies should be made a part of every estate plan. The legal document necessary to plan for a medical emergency is called an Advance Medical Directive.

Is Your Advance Medical Directive Valid?
Is your Advance Medical Directive too old? In 2001 Congress enacted rules governing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (or HIPAA). Part of the act deals with the privacy of medical records and who can and cannot have access to them. Thus, if your Advance Medical Directive was written before 2001, then its too old.

What is a Living Will?
Planning for what happens to you if you suffer from a terminal illness or are critically injured should be made a part of your estate plan. The legal document necessary to put your wishes in writing is called a Living Will.

What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a type of legal document that should be part of every estate plan.

Will Your Power of Attorney Work for Your Retirement Plans?
Today many people have accumulated a significant amount of wealth in 401(k)s, IRAs and annuities. But the reality is if you become mentally incapacitated and lose the ability to manage your finances, then your loved ones won't be able to access your assets without a Power of Attorney. But even if you do have a Power of Attorney, beware - it may be useless when it comes to retirement assets.

Have You Made a Plan for Your Personal Effects?
Have you taken the time to make a plan for what will happen to your personal effects after you die? While in many instances these things will have little monetary value, they will have a great deal of sentimental value to certain family members. And this, in turn, will lead to fights and may land your loved ones in court. Learn all of the options for dealing with your "stuff."

What is a Memorandum of Personal Property?
When you prepare your estate plan, one of the things that you'll need to consider is how you want your personal effects to be distributed. If you have specific people in mind to receive certain items, then you'll need to prepare a Memorandum of Tangible Personal Property to spell out your wishes.

Estate Planning Organizer - Location List
Don't leave your loved ones with a mess. Organize your important documents now so that you can provide your family with a written, comprehensive list showing where your important papers are stored and who to contact in the event of your disability or death. Here's how to put together a location list for your important documents.

Estate Planning Organizer - Contact List
Don't leave your loved ones with a mess. Organize your important documents now so that you can provide your family with a written, comprehensive list showing where your important papers are stored and who to contact in the event of your disability or death. Here's how to create a contact list for your key advisors.

What Documents Are Needed After Someone Dies?
After someone dies, the surviving family members will need to gather up all of the decedent's important papers. This will give the family members and/or probate attorney who will be assisting with settling the decedent's final affairs all of the pertinent information needed to complete the settlement process. Here's the list of documents that...

Where Should You Keep Your Estate Planning Documents?
Another frequent question that I'm asked as an estate planning attorney is, "Where should I keep my original estate planning documents?" The answer is really simple - in a safe and accessible place. But what does that mean?

Who Should You Tell About Your Estate Plan?
One of the most common questions that I'm asked as an estate planning attorney is, "Who should I tell about my estate plan?" As with most of estate planning, the answer isn't a simple one.

Do You Need to Update Your Will or Trust When You Move to Florida?
When you become a Florida resident, it is important that you get your northern-drafted estate plan reviewed to insure that it complies with Florida law and will still work the way you expect it to work.

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