The Law Office of Kurt H King

January 18, 2012

Four Basic Estate Planning Documents

Filed under: Estates/Probate — kurthking @ 5:07 pm
Tags: , , ,

The 4 basic estate planning documents for those whose wealth does not call for tax planning or other complications:

1.  Beneficiary Deed and Designations:  Designate beneficiaries on your bank accounts, life insurance, retirement, vehicles, etc., yourself using the forms from the bank, license bureau, insurance company . . . .  And have the attorney prepare a beneficiary deed on your real estate so it passes to the named beneficiary(s) without the cost and delay of probate–one of the best tools in the box.

2.   Will:  Have the attorney prepare a Will for you so that any property that you own in your name alone at death–and for which there is no valid beneficiary designation–will pass to persons or charities as stated in the Will.  When a Will comes into play, that means a trip though the channels of probate which typically costs time and money, so try to have proper beneficiary designations on all your assets to avoid probate.  Your Will is also the place to name those persons you want to be guardians and/or conservators for your children if they are minors or unable to handle their own affairs at the time of your death.

3.  Power of Attorney:  Have the attorney prepare at least a general Durable power of attorney to name a trusted person to take care of your affairs in case you are unable to do so due to illness or lack of capacity.  The power of this document “dies” when you die–it is for when you are alive.  Some prefer to have a power of attorney for general/financial purposes, and a separate durable health care power of attorney to cover life support, feeding tubes, and the like.

4.  “Living Will”:  This is a health care directive often provided by your hospital or doctor to state your directives as to life support, feeding tubes, and so on when your illness is terminal.  Because this document covers situations where your condition is terminal, it is NOT necessarily controlling when you might live for months or years in a vegetative or brain dead state.  A health care power of attorney is the tool to use to cover situations where the illness is NOT terminal but reduces the quality of life below the point where one would want to subsist.  The landmark Missouri case on situations where the vegetative condition is not terminal is Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, 497 U.S. 261 (1990).

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068


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