The legal device called a last will or last will and testament is probably the one estate planning document that just about everyone has heard of, but this is not the only type of will that can be used when you are planning your estate. Let’s look at some other wills that can provide certain benefits.
Life Support Preferences
A well-constructed estate plan will address end-of-life issues. While it is not a very pleasant subject to think about, the stark reality is that many people become unable to communicate toward the end of their lives.
In some instances, patients who are in terminal conditions can be kept alive through the utilization of life-support measures. These measures would include mechanical respiration, artificial nutrition, and artificial hydration. Whether or not you would want to be kept alive under these circumstances is a personal matter. It is not a decision that you should place into the hands of your family members.
Being asked to make a life or death choice on behalf of a loved one is not a very comfortable position to be placed in, and everyone in the family may not be on the same page. This is well demonstrated by the case of Terri Schiavo.
You may recall the bitter court battle that was waged between her husband and her parents with regard to the ongoing utilization of life-sustaining measures.
This could have been avoided through the execution of a living will. This type of will is an advance directive for health care. You could use a living will to state your life support preferences. Medical professionals would be legally compelled to honor your wishes if you were to become incapacitated and unable to communicate your choices in real-time.
When you look into the subject, you may find that a revocable living trust is a more appealing choice as an asset transfer tool than a last will. One of the major advantages that you would gain if you use a living trust is the avoidance of probate. A will must be admitted to probate, and the court gets involved.
There are expenses that accumulate during probate, and it is also a time-consuming process. Another pitfall is the loss of privacy. Anyone who wants to pry into your affairs could access probate records to find out how you decided to distribute your resources. This can be generally disconcerting, but it can also cause genuine problems among family members.
If you use a living trust, the assets that are in the trust can be distributed to the beneficiaries outside of probate, so these drawbacks are avoided.
There is a type of will called a pour-over will that you would want to include in your estate plan if you have a living trust. For one reason or another, you may still have property in your direct personal possession at the time of your passing that you did not convey into the trust. The pour-over will would allow the trust to absorb the assets, so your estate would be consolidated.
The last type of will that we look at here is the ethical will. This type of will has nothing to do with money, and it has nothing to do with physical health. In fact, it is not even legally binding.
At the same time, an ethical will can be an extraordinarily valuable addition to your estate plan. These documents date back to biblical times. You would use an ethical will to commit your moral and spiritual values to writing.
Throughout your life, your loved ones have probably approached you during difficult times to seek out some guidance. Though you will not be around forever to provide assistance, if you take the time to author an ethical will, your “rules to live by” will be available to the family members that you will be leaving behind.
Schedule a Consultation
As you can see from this blog post, there are estate planning documents out there that the typical layperson may not know about. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to discuss everything with an estate planning attorney before you make any final decisions.
Our firm provides personalized attention to our clients. If you would like to discuss your estate planning objectives with a local attorney, we are here to help. To set up a consultation, give us a call at 239-225-7911. If you would rather get in touch digitally, send us a message through our contact page.