What Documents Do I Need For Estate Planning?


essential documents

Protecting your family and your legacy requires the benefit of experienced estate planning professionals. One aspect of making the planning process more effective and more rewarding is to simply have the right documents on-hand and easily accessible. Ensuring harmony among family members including spousal partners, children and other heirs requires having clear and well-defined estate distribution instructions in place. Typically speaking the first order of business is to have the right documents readily available to the professionals such as a trustee who will handle the estate. Coordinating among law firms, accountants and insurance professionals also demands that all documentation is organized and in order. Here are several essential documents that should be considered when planning an estate transfer strategy going forward.

Power of attorney

Giving family members or other trusted individuals the ability to directly handle the financial affairs of an individual once they have passed is simply a smart strategy. The power-or-attorney is a very specific document describing who can assist and what areas they can assist with when a principle has passed. Avoiding conservatorship means having this form completed and available when it becomes required. Whether an individual passes-on or becomes incapacitated a document known as a springy power-of-attorney becomes useful if a principle becomes unable to make decisions and choices. Conversely, a durable power-of-attorney permits a chosen agent to act on behalf of the principle immediately. Selecting the right form and having it stored in a secure location and easily accessible is a basic tenant of good estate planning.

Advanced Health Care Directive

When it is not possible to convey one’s healthcare desires and preferences an Advanced Health Care Directive can be extremely useful. From specific treatments to medical tests and various types of medical care, the Advanced Health Care Directive provides doctors and legal professionals as well as others with detailed instructions if the principle is incapacitated. The document further details and outlines who is authorized to make healthcare decisions when a principle is unable to do so on their own. Consulting with an experienced estate planner is always a good option for ensuring that this document is accounted for and easily accessible.

Will and testament

A common and important document used to transfer assets upon the passing of a principle is known as a will. As with a living trust a will should be carefully integrated into the larger and more comprehensive estate plan. However, it should be noted that a will in many situations could result in probate. Affluent individuals and those with substantial assets and accumulated wealth are typically better served by the benefits of a living trust. As a note, having a living trust in place does not negate the need for a basic "will" type document.

Living Trust

Having grown in popularity the living trust is clearly in many ways a more versatile and beneficial document. A living trust is more flexible, offers greater confidentiality and offers faster and more efficient estate distribution. Most notable is the fact that this document greatly reduces the chances of ending up in probate. In addition, a living trust can offer considerable tax efficiency and tax related benefits. Quality estate planning for those with high net worth can help to ensure that all the requirements of the trust are met. This includes doing what is necessary to make sure that the trust is correctly funded. Bank accounts, real estate investments and all other investments should be transferred into the trust in a timely way. When a living trust is put into motion the trustee is able to (in a less-restrictive way) distribute assets to those who are defined in the trust.

The HIPAA Release form

There are laws that were established several years ago at the federal level that were intended to better protect a person’s health care related information and privacy. While good in some ways these laws also made it more challenging for family members to access essential health care related information when a principle becomes incapacitated. The HIPAA release form is a key document that enables those listed as a power-of-attorney or those listed on an Advanced Health Care Directive to gain the necessary access to vital healthcare information of a principle who has become incapacitated.


Having the right documents completed and available when they are needed the most is an essential part of any good estate plan. When pondering the question, “what documents do I need for estate planning?” consider this basic list as an excellent starting point. Talk with your attorney and your estate planning professional for your specific or unique estate transfer situation. As with everything, prior planning and education can go a long way in protecting estate assets and protecting future generations. This article is provided courtesy of Silver Rock Partners, a dedicated team of estate planning experts that specialize in high-net-worth estate planning, foreign national life insurance and solutions for those who have been told they are uninsurable.

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 Published 6.8.15 MGB/SRP