senior couple smiling while shaking hand with financial advisor

By:  Lee A. Schwartz, Esq.

No matter the size of your estate or the complexity of your circumstances, it is important to have the proper estate planning documents in place to protect you, your family and your assets.  Having the proper estate planning documents in place at the time of serious illness or death avoids uncertainty, which can create conflict among family members from which they may never recover.

Below is a list of the key documents you should have in place so that you are certain your wishes are clear, legal and understood by your family members.

  1. Beneficiary Forms. Beneficiary forms provide who is entitled to the assets in your 401(k) plan, IRAs, life insurance policies and other types of bank and brokerage accounts upon your death.  Your beneficiary designations trump any directives stated in a Will.
  2. Last Will and Testament. Your Last Will and Testament outlines the detailed and specific instructions on how you want your assets distributed upon your death and who you want to be in charge of administering your estate.  This document can be very simple or highly customized to meet your unique needs.
  3. Revocable Living Trust. Similar to a Will, a living trust details how you want your property and funds distributed upon your death.  It also allows you to maintain control of your assets while you are still alive.
  4. Durable Power of Attorney. The Power of Attorney is crucial to the management of your financial assets while you are alive.  A trusted individual is selected to act on your behalf should you be unable to do so due to mental or physical incapacity.
  5. Health Care Proxy. This document names an individual to make decisions associated with medical care if you are unable to do so due to an accident or otherwise.
  6. Living Will. A Living Will is a document that lets you state your wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case you become unable to communicate your desires.

Estate plans are essential for everyone. Do yourself and your family a favor and make sure you have the proper estate planning documents in place now so you can avoid family disputes in the future. For more information on these essential documents, read the full article.

Lee A. Schwartz, Esq. is Principal at Schwartz Ettenger, PLLC, a premier boutique law firm located in Melville, NY. Lee has practiced law for over 20 years in the areas of corporate and real estate law, and all aspects of trusts and estates.