The simple answer is you do not need a lawyer to assist with your life and estate planning documents. However, like all things in life, it depends on the circumstances.
In making this decision, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I capable of creating my life and estate documents?
- Do I know where to go for help in creating these documents?
- Online forms, advice and applications.
- Books on the pertinent topics.
- Advice from friends.
- What is my budget to accomplish these tasks?
- Do I know an estate attorney/financial planner/another person to help me?
- Is my estate of such a size and complexity to consider an estate attorney/financial planner?
Think of Estate Planning as compared to filing your taxes. The more complex your taxes, the more you may seek assistance from professional… the same holds true when planning your life and estate.
LEO – Life & Estate Organizer should be your first step no matter which direction you choose to go. LEO helps get your important life and estate details documented and organized to allow you make an informed decision and make it easier for your estate planner to finalize your wishes should you choose to move forward and hire a professional.
What Goes into a Formal Estate Plan?
Your life and estate planning documents should include:
- Last will and testament (LWT)- A last will and testament is a legal document that details your final wishes about how to distribute your assets after death.
- Advanced medical directive (living will, personal directive, advanced directive, medical directive) – This is a document that tells doctors, medical professionals and family members which treatments you want if you are dying, permanently unconscious, or unable to make decisions about emergency care.
- Durable financial power of attorney – Appoints an agent to govern your financial and personal affairs if you are unable to do so, expires upon death.
- Durable health care power of attorney – This legal document allows you to appoint a health care proxy empowered to talk to doctors, access your health care information and make medical decisions about your care, expires upon death.
- Power of attorney – You appoint someone to access and manage your financial accounts (does not continue upon death or incapacitation).
- Life Estate Organizer (LEO) – Provides a pathway for your loved ones to follow upon your being incapacitated or upon death, giving them a clear understanding of your life and the extent of your estate and the issues to resolve your estate.
Formal Estate Planning Precautions
Some precautions for you to consider in the creation of your estate planning documents:
- Make sure you account for all assets and liabilities, understand the make up of your net worth.
- Create a Net Worth Statement.
- Make sure all your assets have beneficiary designations in your LWT.
- Make sure you identify and make your beneficiary designations for insurances, annuities, pensions, 401-K’s, IRA’s, other retirement accounts, etc. and that you do not include these in your LWT since your beneficiaries are already assigned. You can review and change beneficiaries if you elect to do so.
- Make sure you understand all state laws governing your estate documents.
- Make sure you utilize the LEO – Life Estate Organizer trusted individual agreements to appoint trusted individuals to execute your wishes. This will save you money in lawyer fees to legally establish these appointments.
- Estate trustee
- Secondary executor
- LEO trustee
- LEO digital trustee
- LEO PC trustee
- Estate attorney
- Financial adviser
- Private banker
- Make sure all documents are consistent in explaining and accounting for beneficiary designations.
- Make sure all estate documents are signed and dated by you, in your handwriting, using the same signature throughout all documents.
- Some states require a witness(es) and notary. Understand your state requirements.
- For anything complex or unusual
- Distributing a lot of money.
- Distributing a number of fixed assets for example: Multiple residences.
- Excluding a family member from your will.
- Involved in divorce(s).
- Number of underage children.
- Assets located in other countries or states.
- You should research and identify more possible complex or unusual issues, pertinent to you that might require more understanding or an estate attorney’s expertise.
- Name guardians for underage children or dependent family member(s).
This list of precautions does not comprise all precautions to be taken. There may be other precautions for you to consider dependent upon your particular circumstances.
Today, you have options on how to proceed with the creation of your life and estate planning documents:
- Create your own documents by doing it yourself (DIY).
- Use “How to Guides” found in books.
- Use “How to” online forms.
- Consult your state’s Department of Aging.
- Use online applications.
- Use an estate attorney or a financial planner.
No matter what you decide about how to create your estate planning documents, once they are completed, you will have to decide how to organize the storage, retrieval, updating and distribution of your documents. The LEO estate planning document mentioned above has this all figured out for you!
LEO gives you the ability to upload and store all of your estate planning documents in a single, secure location. LEO provides a means of certifying and locking your LEO data and estate planning documents and releasing them for updating and upon your death in a systematic way defined by you, to those you determined to be your trusted individuals. From that point on your trusted individuals will execute your wishes.
Creating your estate planning documents is tedious work. It takes, money, time, effort, understanding and knowledge of the requirements for each document. There is an enormous amount of online help available which can help you understand the information requirements for these documents whether you decide to create them yourself or to better understand what an estate attorney or financial planner might require of you. You have the knowledge to capture your life and estate information better than anyone else since you lived the life and built the estate you are documenting and leaving all of this for your loved ones.
Don’t be like 40% of Americans who put off making this decision until it is too late! Don’t leave your estate in the hands of the courts and an appointed executor, making decisions for you in your absence, that you would have done differently.
Take the 1st Step
Subscribe to LEO – Life Estate Organizer. Try it for Free for 14 days and pay only $5/month ($57/year with an annual subscription). Your private, secure, personalized LEO account will help you think through the details and provide the organizational template you need to either develop your formal estate plan, Last Will and Testament, etc. …or simply allow LEO to operate as your stand-alone documentation. Just take the first step, you’ll be so glad you did.