2. The Document Phase
Once you and the attorney have developed your estate plan, we will then take this information and compare it against what you already have in place to determine what documents need to be prepared.
You may hear from us during this phase if a question comes up that was not decided during the Planning Phase, but otherwise this phase is primarily done by our office.
Generally, estate plans will be composed of a Will, as well as a series of documents known as "Advanced Directives" - Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and HIPAA Authorization. If appropriate to you, your estate plan might also include a Living Trust, Declaration of Homestead, and other complex documents.
Your estate plan will include a Will stating how you want your estate distributed. Your Will does not direct the disposition of assets held in joint name with someone, or having a designated beneficiary listed. So it is important that a review of all your assets be undertaken (see Implementation Phase, below) to make sure all your assets are distributed in the manner you have chosen.
The Will also appoints the Executor you select who will be responsible for settling your estate.
Depending on your circumstances, we may also prepare one or more living trusts and, if appropriate, perhaps even more elaborate instruments such as promissory notes, LLC's, Family Limited Partnerships, and other contracts. If your assets include retirement plans or life insurance policies, we may draft new retirement plan beneficiary designation form or new ownership forms any life insurance policies.
The Durable Power of Attorney will allow you to designate someone to make financial decisions for you. The Health Care Proxy names someone to make medical decisions for when when you are unable to make them for yourself. The HIPAA Authorization identifies which family members may receive medical information about you. Taken together, these documents are designed to allow you to say what will happen in the future. Without them, a Court will be asked to appoint a guardian or conservator to make decisions for you; this is a very expensive and time-consuming process. We want you to make these decisions and these documents will implement your choices.
Depending on the complexity of your estate plan, this Document Phase may take from a couple of weeks to several months to complete. In some instances, some parts may move forward while other parts are held off until later. In these cases you and our office will work together to determine the schedule for the various parts of the estate plan.
Next... 3. The Implementation Phase