Many people believe that all wills, trusts and powers of attorney are -- for the most part -- fill-in-the-blank documents. The documents that make up an estate plan may have the same names, but they are all tailored to each individual. No two Washington, DC, residents have the same needs when it comes to estate planning, and each of them receives a unique plan.
The needs of each individual may change, depending on whether he or she has children, a loved one with special needs or some other family dynamic. A person's financial situation may also affect what documents are needed in order to carry out his or her wishes. These needs cover two of the main goals of estate planning -- reducing taxes and providing for family members.
Before any document drafting can begin, an individual needs to determine his or her assets and liabilities. This will determine the net worth of his or her estate, which dictates what can be distributed to heirs and beneficiaries. Once that is done, there remains the decision of whom those heirs and beneficiaries will be.
As part of that process, it will most likely become clear how each of them will inherit a portion of the estate. A will may not be enough. In that case, a trust may better suit the needs of the estate plan's creator, since it dictates how and when a beneficiary will receive the assets of the trust.
Just as important as these decisions is the choice of who will be the executor of the estate, the trustee of any trusts and the agent for any powers of attorney. It is not necessary for the same person to carry out each of these roles. This person or persons need to be trusted by the individual choosing them and be willing to carry out the duties specific to each task.
Once all of this information is gathered and all of the necessary selections are made, the documents can be drafted and executed. The estate planning process can be as simple or complex as is needed to carry out a Washington, DC, resident's wishes. After it is complete, an estate plan often provides everyone involved with peace of mind.
Source: NASDAQ, "Estate Planning Guide 101: A Basic Guide To Establishing Your Estate", Joe Young, Oct. 15, 2014