Estate Plan Fundamentals: Documents and Differences

| July 28, 2015

Estate Planning

Bob Lambert, Valdosta Today Legal Contributor

Estate planning involves far more than a will to transfer assets after death, and is not just for the wealthy. If you have a family and property of any kind, you need an estate plan.

Every individual and every family has different needs when it comes to creating an estate plan. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to estate plans. So the plan that is the best possible estate plan for your cousin and his family is not going to be the same as it is for you – even though your circumstances may appear to be the same.

However, there are some basic documents that can be found in almost any estate plan worthy of the name. These documents are the backbone upon which any other estate planning documents are attached.

Recently, The Motley Fool explored this issue in an article titled “Estate Planning Checklist: How to Protect Your Future, Your Family and Your Property.”

According to The Motley Fool these basic documents include:

A Living Will – Also known as an Advanced Healthcare Directive, this document allows you to direct what methods doctors will use to preserve your life if you are incapacitated and cannot tell them yourself.

General Durable Power of Attorney – This allows you to designate someone else to handle your financial affairs if you become unable to do so yourself.

Will – Even if a will is not the primary means by which your estate is to be distributed, you still need one for any leftover assets.

Beneficiary forms – If you have life insurance or retirement accounts, the forms designating beneficiaries are considered part of your estate plan.

These are the basic documents in almost every estate plan.

But don’t forget, my focus as an Elder Law attorney is not simply on estate planning–what happens to your stuff after you die, but managing your funds, assets and income BEFORE die so you will not out live your money, and you will have an enhanced quality of life. Therefore for those 50 and older there are other things that must be included in your estate plan which should include:

–Medicaid Asset Protection Trust–which allows you to protect your assets from costly long term care costs allowing you to preserve some of your assets for your posterity.

–Revocable Living Trust–which allows you to control, even after death, how, in what manner, and over what payout process your funds will be distributed to heirs. Perhaps you have a child who is not particularly credit worthy or has dependency issues such that an outright distribution to that child upon your death would be detrimental.

–Power of Attorney–Don’t even get me started on this soap box. The most important of all estate planning documents for Seniors which allows someone to act on your behalf. Any yes, I know most of you have them, and I will say again, get to an Elder lawyer and have it updated! Every week, I see families spending hundreds and thousands of dollars pursuing Guardianships and Conservatorships because they have an internet power of attorney, or one drawn by a general practice attorney not familiar with Medicaid and long term care planning. If your POA does not grant your agent specific powers to do certain long term planning, like creating a Trust, you are going to spend FAR more money to grant your agent the proper powers that that $200.00 you saved by not seeking advice from an Elder Lawyer.

Please contact me today at 229-292-8989 or visit my website at for more information.

I want to also invite all Seniors to come out to the Senior Living Showcase on August 15, 2015 from 9 am to 1 p.m. at the Rainwater Conference Center in Valdosta, and talk with us about your long term care planning. Susan and I will be there all morning passing out literature, answering questions and meeting Seniors in South Georgia. Please come by and introduce yourself.

Also, beginning in September, we will be teaching our class: “Avoiding the Nursing Home for Baby Boomers” with VSU’s Leaning in Retirement program. We encourage you to go on VSU’s site for more information and to register for our class.

Reference: The Motley Fool (July 15, 2015) “Estate Planning Checklist: How to Protect Your Future, Your Family and Your Property.”

LambertBob Lambert is an Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney who has practiced law in Valdosta for 25 years. His practice is focused mostly toward those Seniors who are 50 years of age and older where there is a need for advanced long term care planning. He utilizes a holistic approach which brings financial planners, home health care, assisted living and nursing home professionals and other experts together for comprehensive life care planning with the goal Medicaid eligibility when needed, asset protection and reallocation combined with traditional estate planning wealth transfer strategies.

An Alabama native raised in Texas, he received his B.A. degree from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Government and English, and his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Mississippi where he graduated 4th in his class. He is a member of both the Georgia Bar and the Texas Bar; a member of the Elder law section of the State Bar of Georgia; and a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys including the Trust and Medicaid planning sections.

He regularly and eagerly provides complimentary seminars to civic groups, churches and other organizations on long term care planning and Medicaid eligibility. His primary focus is to help all seniors 50 years of age and older understand the necessity and importance, and implement , advance planning to preserve assets for enhanced quality of life in advanced age. More information can be found at his website where you subscribe to his weekly blogs on Elder law and estate planning issues at

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