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The first fundamental tool you will need in your estate planning is a Last Will and Testament. A will is a legal document stating how you would like to have your estate distributed upon your death. A will is filed with the court in the county where the decedent resided at the time of his or her death.
If a will is not executed in compliance with the formalities of state law, the document will be discarded, and the estate administration process will take place as if the decedent had died without a will, and state law will mandate how your property is to be distributed.
A Will must include:
• the person’s name, city and state where they reside
• statement of specific transfers of money or property to certain beneficiaries
• statement of who will receive the balance of the estate
• the appointment of a representative of the estate, also known as the executor
• instructions for the executor to follow and powers granted
• a place where the testator may sign and date the will
• declaration that two (2) witnesses sign stating that they witnessed the signing by the testator and that the testator was of a sound mind
If minor children are named as beneficiaries of the will, additional provisions are required to permit the court to monitor and protect the property of the minor until such time as they become entitled to receive their inheritance.
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A living will is a legal document executed in conformity with state law where you express your wishes regarding the use of life sustaining treatment if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious.
This document only becomes effective when you cannot communicate and you are terminally ill or permanent unconscious. This document also instructs medical personnel regarding life saving measures, and it may be changed or revoked at any time. Before life support will be withdrawn you must be in a permanently unconscious state, and two (2) doctors must examine you and agree that you will not recover.