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What Are the Five Most Important Estate Planning Documents in Las Vegas, NV?

Posted on July 15, 2022 in estate planning

Estate planning may not be the most comfortable topic for many people in the Las Vegas, NV, area, but it’s vital to understand what the process entails and the benefits of the effort you put toward it. A comprehensive and legally enforceable estate plan can provide peace of mind for you and relief for your family after your death. Without an estate plan, the family of a recently deceased individual faces a long and complex probate process, and the division of the deceased’s property hinges on strict intestate succession laws.

If you intend to create an estate plan that minimizes the time your loved ones must endure in probate, it’s possible with the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney. A properly constructed estate plan can not only spare your family from protracted probate proceedings but also yield more individualized results than they could expect from a probate judge. There are five essential components that an estate plan should include to provide these benefits.

  1. The Last Will and Testament The most basic and essential component of an estate plan is the last will and testament. Traditionally, the last will is the will writer’s intentions for their property after death. This document provides them the opportunity to convey their final thoughts, wishes, and comfort to their loved ones, and it should include a detailed list of beneficiary designations. Every family is unique, and a carefully constructed will can eliminate uncertainty during estate administration.Without a will, Nevada’s intestate succession laws determine the deceased’s beneficiaries. This can lead to tension between the surviving family members as the outcome of probate may not align with their interpretations of the deceased’s actual wishes. Creating a will and updating it regularly is the best way to prevent these conflicts and streamline estate administration for your family.
  2. Trust or Living Trust Trusts, also called “living trusts,” are incredibly useful legal mechanisms that can potentially allow a family to avoid a majority of the probate process. Probate applies to property the deceased owned at the time of their death. A trust effectively assigns ownership rights of the trust creator’s property to a trustee. When the trust creator dies, property that would normally need to undergo the probate process is within the control of the trustee.This trustee has a fiduciary duty to follow the instructions provided to them by the trust creator after their death. A trust or living trust is typically developed with a last will and testament. These two components of an estate plan include a complete description of the deceased’s property, their wishes as to how they want their property distributed, and instructions for the trustee they’ve designated to carry out their wishes.
  3. Advanced Medical Care Directive Many people have specific preferences regarding the level of medical intervention they want in an emergency or during palliative care. An advanced medical care directive provides your family with clear instructions pertaining to the medical treatments you would like to receive in various situations. While it’s unrealistic to expect to account for every eventuality, providing your family with a clear description of your preferences helps them make more informed decisions if you become incapacitated, unresponsive, or otherwise unable to make important medical decisions on your own behalf.
  4. Durable Power of Attorney A durable power of attorney enables you to designate a trusted family member or close friend as your personal representative. This effectively empowers them with your signature, allows them to make legally binding decisions on your behalf, and enables them to sign official documents in your name if you cannot take such actions on your own. In most cases, an estate owner’s power of attorney will be their spouse, followed by their children, if old enough to handle their legal duties, and then other close relatives. It’s common for the individual selected as the power of attorney of an estate owner to be the estate’s executor and/or trustee.
  5. Guardianship Designations When an estate creator has young children, their estate plan must include their preferences regarding guardianship designations. These designations determine who will assume legal responsibility for the estate owner’s children. It’s important to remember that if you intend to include any form of guardianship designation of a minor in your estate plan, the family court must approve the transfer of legal guardianship and ensure it aligns with the child’s best interests. Guardianship designations may generate disputes among the remaining family members, but ultimately a family court judge must determine the best options for the children in question.

Ensuring Your Estate Plan Is Legally Enforceable

Everyone has unique needs and concerns regarding estate planning, and it’s vital to seek legal advice from an attorney you can trust if you intend to ensure your estate plan is fully enforceable. Additionally, a good attorney can assist you in periodically revisiting and revising your estate plan over time. This ensures you can appropriately account for any unexpected changes in your life following the creation of your estate plan.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help you determine which elements are most important for your estate plan and then guide you through the development of each component in detail. For example, if you intend to have your spouse act as your personal representative, executor of your estate, trustee, and/or any other legal position following your death, you must include these preferences in your estate plan. In addition, your attorney can advise you whether you should include secondary candidates or even third options should your chosen representatives be unable or unwilling to handle their fiduciary duties after your death.

Ken R. Ashworth & Associates has extensive professional experience with estate planning, estate administration, and probate law in Las Vegas, NV. It’s natural to have many questions when creating an estate plan, and legal counsel you can trust enables you to make more informed decisions. If you are interested in developing a comprehensive and legally enforceable estate plan in Las Vegas, contact Ken R. Ashworth & Associates to learn more about our legal services.