What Documents Does an Estate Planning Lawyer Help You Prepare?


If you want to ensure your estate plan fully meets your goals and stands up legally, having an experienced estate planning attorney draft your documents is ideal. Estate planning lawyers are experts at creating customized plans and properly executing the various legal documents involved.

Below, we will explore the main estate planning documents an estate planning lawyer can help you prepare and why each one is important.

Last Will and Testament

A last will is the fundamental document that lets you specify how you want your assets distributed after your death. It identifies beneficiaries for your probate estate (assets owned solely by you). They will also allow you to name an executor to manage the probate process and assign guardians for minor children. An attorney, like those at Hammond Law Group, will ensure your will is properly structured and complies with your state’s legal requirements.

Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust is a key document allowing you to place assets under separate legal control to avoid probate and provide for asset distribution according to your instructions. Attorney-drafted trusts provide greater protection and clarity compared to homemade documents. Your lawyer can advise you on the proper use of trusts in your overall estate plan.

Financial Power of Attorney

This legal document appoints someone you authorize to manage financial and legal matters on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Your lawyer will know the ideal scope of powers to grant your agent, depending on your needs. A power of attorney is critical for competent management of your affairs if you cannot do so yourself.

Health Care Power of Attorney

A healthcare power of attorney allows you to designate someone to make medical decisions guided by your written instructions if you are unable to do so. It is an important complement to a living will. Your estate planning lawyer will make sure your document conforms to state laws and clearly captures your preferences.

Living Will

Also called an advance healthcare directive, this document specifies the medical treatments you want to receive if you become incapacitated or terminally ill. It conveys important decisions about life support, pain management, organ donation, and other considerations to guide healthcare providers. Your lawyer will ensure it fully covers your wishes.

HIPAA Authorization

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the privacy of your medical information. A HIPAA authorization allows specific individuals to access your protected health information. Your estate planning attorney can properly prepare this document.

Disposition of Remains

Funeral and burial instructions are an often overlooked part of an estate plan. Your lawyer can draft a disposition of remains document that legally conveys your wishes about cremation, organ donation, burial location, and related matters. This spares loved ones difficult decisions later.

Memorandum of Wishes

While not legally binding, this written record supplements other estate documents by providing additional context, preferences, and instructions to executors, trustees, guardians, and beneficiaries after you pass away. Your lawyer can assist you in preparing a memorandum conveying more personal thoughts.

Community Property Agreement

In community property states, this document allows you to characterize assets as separate or joint property with your spouse. Your lawyer’s advice is crucial for documenting ownership and transference wishes to optimize tax and other treatment of community property.

Certification of Trust

This document summarizes key provisions in your trust agreement to provide to institutions that need to know you have a trust. Banks, brokers, and real estate agents often request a certification of trust. Your lawyer will know exactly what details to include (and exclude).

Deed Upon Death

A deed upon death (also called a transfer-on-death deed) is a useful document that allows you to arrange for real estate to be transferred directly to designated beneficiaries when you pass away without needing to go through the probate process.

Here are some key things to know about deeds upon death and how an estate planning lawyer can advise you on their use:

  • A deed upon death operates like a will for real estate – it controls who inherits your property without probate. But unlike a will, it does not require court validation and immediately transfers ownership when you die.

  • These deeds name both a primary beneficiary to receive your property upon your death, and secondary beneficiaries who would inherit if the primary beneficiary dies before you.

  • The deed upon death transfers full ownership, control, and rights to the beneficiaries. They can do whatever they want with the property once transferred.

  • You retain full ownership and control over the property and ability to change or revoke the deed upon death during your lifetime. It only takes effect at death.

  • An estate planning lawyer can help determine if a deed upon death makes sense as part of your overall estate plan and real estate ownership goals. They ensure it is properly prepared and recorded.

  • These deeds may be most appropriate for simple transfers to adult beneficiaries. Trusts offer greater control options.

  • There may be property tax and Medicaid implications in some states, so legal guidance is essential.

  • Your attorney can advise you on exactly what information to include in the deed upon death document for validity.

In summary, a deed upon death can be a convenient way to transfer real estate while avoiding probate. Consult an estate planning lawyer at Hammond Law Group in Colorado Springs to see if this tool fits into your comprehensive estate plan. The attorney will ensure the deed is properly established per state laws.

Beneficiary Designations

Beneficiary designation forms dictate who receives proceeds from particular assets like life insurance, retirement accounts, stocks, etc. Your attorney will ensure you complete these important forms properly so the assets transfer directly to the recipients you want.

Preparing core estate planning documents is complex and governed by precise legal requirements. Having an experienced estate planning attorney draft them provides protection and peace of mind. They ensure your plan is properly established and your wishes legally documented.